Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Americans.
Recent research shows that at least 10% of cancers are caused by inherited mutations in genes such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
Parents with the cancer gene mutation have a 50% chance of passing it on to a son or daughter.
It’s well-known that women with BRCA are at a very high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
However, many people don’t know that men with these mutations also are at risk of breast cancer and other cancers.
In a recent study from UCLA, researchers show that few men are screened for these genetic mutations.
The research group analyzed data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey. They found that nearly 2.5 million people underwent cancer genetic testing.
This includes testing for genes related to breast/ovarian cancer such as BRCA, but also those related to risk for colorectal and other cancers.
Among the 2.5 million people, nearly three times as many women received testing compared with men (73% vs. 27%).
The team also found that the disparity in testing was specific to breast/ovarian cancer.
Men underwent testing for breast/ovarian cancer genes at 10% of the rate in women. But there was no gender disparity for colorectal or other cancer testing.
The researchers want to determine why so few men get tested and find ways to increase those rates. That is their goal for the future work.
Finally, the team noted that the survey was based on self-reported data from patients. This can sometimes be unreliable.
In addition, there are limited details regarding the reasons why patients underwent testing.
The researchers said:
“If a male has a BRCA mutation, his risk of breast cancer increases a hundredfold.”
“BRCA mutations also put men at higher risk for often aggressive prostate cancers that occur at younger ages.”
“These mutations have also been associated with other cancers, such as pancreatic cancer and melanoma.”
“Previous studies have shown that men don’t necessarily understand the importance of a breast cancer gene mutation — that it is more of a ‘feminine’ issue — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“We hope this study will spur broad national educational efforts.”
The study published in April in JAMA Oncology.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality funded this study.
Study co-authors are Melinda Maggard-Gibbons and James Macinko, both of UCLA.
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