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Not as Much Testing

More women than men seek genetic testing for inherited BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, even though those mutations also affect men's risk of developing cancer, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Researchers in Los Angeles recently sifted through data from the US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) to examine factors that influence seeking genetic testing. They reported in JAMA Oncology in June that they found that men sought testing about a third as often as women. In particular, for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer testing, they reported a 10-to-1 disparity.

Mark Meerschaert, who learned a family member had tested positive for a BRCA2 gene mutation, tells the Journal he didn't initially seek testing — despite having been diagnosed with prostate cancer — because he'd thought of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations as a concern just for women in the family.

The Journal adds that some researchers see the disparity in part as a "naming" issue: Men hear "hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome" and don't realize it also increase prostate cancer risk. In addition, it notes that there are likely also social factors at play that prevent men from speaking openly about cancer and genetic testing.