A recent study in JAMA Oncology found that U.S. women were more likely to get tested for inherited gene mutations associated with cancer risk, despite the fact that women and men who carry inherited BRCA gene mutations associated with increased cancer risk have an equal chance of passing them on to their children. Women received genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk three times more often than men, according to the study. When it came to genetic testing for mutations associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2, the gender gap was even greater: women were 10 times more likely to get tested than men.
“We were really struck by the massive disparity,” says Christopher Childers, resident physician in the department of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and senior author of the JAMA Oncology paper. Men are at higher risk for developing pancreatic cancer, melanoma, prostate cancer, and male breast cancer. Doctors and researchers are launching new efforts to address the disparity, starting with men who may already have medical issues or a family history of cancer.
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a nonprofit alliance of national cancer centers, recently modified guidelines to include a recommendation that men with metastatic prostate cancer should consider genetic testing. Researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington launched the Gentlemen study, offering free genetic testing to 2,000 men with advanced prostate cancer to determine if they have inherited mutations linked to increased cancer risk.
Some researchers say genetic testing for men has lagged behind testing for women because scientists still don’t know enough about which mutations increase men’s cancer risk, or by how much. Previous studies indicate that men are generally less likely than women to go to the doctor.
Some researchers believe social factors contribute to the testing gap.
Source: Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2018