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Sue Friedman Outlines Misconceptions Regarding Genetic Testing in Cancer

Many people associate the BRCA mutations with breast and ovarian cancer and mistakenly think they, and other genes that contribute to cancer, don’t affect men, said Sue Friedman, DVM, executive director of FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered.


Many people associate the BRCA mutations with breast and ovarian cancer and mistakenly think they, and other genes that contribute to cancer, don’t affect men, said Sue Friedman, DVM, executive director of FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered.

Are there any misconceptions we can address regarding genetic testing and family cancer risk?

Transcript

One of the biggest misconceptions that we see is that these genes don’t affect men. And there was some research presented here about prostate cancer. That’s another area where there is a lot of research. So, men with mutations, when they do get prostate cancer, they tend to get a more aggressive prostate cancer—it’s more likely to be metastatic. And the agents that I mentioned before called PARP [poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase] inhibitors, they’re looking at them for metastatic prostate cancer in men with mutations.

Some of these men have inherited mutations—so they inherited it from their mother or father, and they can pass it on to their children. But some men get what’s called acquired mutations. So, these mutations develop within their prostate cancer, and actually this can happen in all the different cancers, but when we’re talking about prostate cancer then obviously, we’re talking about men.

But there is just this real general impression that these genes don’t affect men and I think part of that is you know, sometimes we refer to BRCA1 and 2 as the breast cancer genes even though they’re associated with other cancer risks and another term that people use is the “Angelina Jolie Gene” because she’s one of the most famous people who has a mutation. And that can lead to the misconception that these genetic mutations are not important to men and they are.

Another important thing for people to be aware of is that genetic testing isn’t just about BRCA1 and 2, and it’s not just about breast and ovarian cancer. I talked a little bit about pancreatic and prostate cancer. There are other hereditary cancer syndromes. There’s a syndrome called Lynch syndrome that’s associated also with colorectal cancer and endometrial and uterine cancer in women, as well as ovarian cancer.

So, it’s important. And this is the type of information people will get when they see a genetics expert, and they can make sure the right test is ordered because many of these, what we call panel tests, test for a lot of different genes. So, they can make sure the right test is ordered based on someone’s family history and they can help them interpret it correctly.

 
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