Girls with family history of breast cancer 'do not suffer mentally as a result'

28 September 2016

Teenage girls with a family history of breast cancer do not generally experience increased depression or anxiety as a consequence, according to a new study.

A team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania has indicated that adolescent girls in families with a history of breast cancer or a high-risk BRCA1/2 mutation are not affected by resultant negative psychological effects on average.

Their analysis came after speaking to 320 girls, 208 of whom were from families with a history of breast cancer or relevant genetic risk factors in near relatives.

As expected, girls with a family breast cancer history scored much higher on measures of perceived breast cancer risk and disease-specific distress, but no worse on measures of general psychosocial adjustment, including anxiety and depression.

Moreover, those with breast cancer history families scored modestly but significantly higher on a measure of self-esteem, indicating that exposure to relatives with cancer may foster an adaptive response.

Among all the girls in the study, perceptions of breast cancer risk rose as they grew older and matured mentally, although the perceived risk was always higher in those with a family history of the disease.

Dr Angela Bradbury, an assistant professor of haematology and oncology at the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Cancer Center, said: "If it's a harmful thing for a girl to know she's at risk, we need to know which girls are anxious and how we can help them, and if it's a beneficial thing we need to know how best to capitalise on it."

Posted by Edward Bartel


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