Most High Risk Women Aren’t Aware of Ovarian Cancer Risk

(July 28, 2014) Research published last week in Behavioral Medicine suggests that most high-risk women (>75%) do not know their risk for ovarian cancer.

Women with a documented deleterious mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2 are at substantially elevated risk for ovarian cancer. To understand what percentage of women with high risk family histories know their risk is elevated, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle surveyed 1,885 women with a high or moderate risk family history and no personal history of breast or ovarian cancer, and asked about their perceived risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Among high-risk women, fewer than 20% reported use of genetic counseling, and knowledge of elevated risk of ovarian cancer was low. Prior genetic counseling was associated with greater perceived risk for ovarian cancer. The results found that most high-risk women (> 75%) do not know their risk for ovarian cancer. Identification of potentially high-risk women for referral to genetic counseling may improve informed ovarian cancer risk management.