Genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility: evaluating direct-to-consumer marketing--Atlanta, Denver, Raleigh-Durham, and Seattle, 2003

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Jul 16;53(27):603-6.


Breast and ovarian cancer are the second and fifth leading causes of cancer death, respectively, among women in the United States. One in eight women will have breast cancer during their lifetimes, and one in 70 will have ovarian cancer. Mutations in two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2), are associated with predisposition for inherited breast and ovarian cancer and are identified in 5%-10% of women with breast or ovarian cancer (BOC). Since 1996, genetic testing for these mutations has been available clinically; however, population-based screening is not recommended because of the complexity of test interpretation and limited data on clinical validity and utility. Despite the test's limited applicability in the general population, the U.S. provider of clinical BRCA1/2 testing (Myriad Genetic Laboratories, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah) conducted a pilot direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing campaign in two cities (Atlanta, Georgia, and Denver, Colorado) during September 2002-February 2003. Although DTC advertisements have been used to raise consumer awareness about pharmaceuticals, this was the first time an established genetic test was marketed to the public. To assess the impact of the campaign on consumer behaviors and health-care provider practices, CDC and the respective state health departments for the pilot cities and two comparison cities (Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, and Seattle, Washington) surveyed consumers and providers. This report summarizes results of those surveys, which indicated that consumer and provider awareness of BRCA1/2 testing increased in the pilot cities and that providers in these cities perceived an impact on their practice (e.g., more questions asked about testing, more BRCA1/2 tests requested, and more tests ordered). However, in all four cities, providers often lacked knowledge to advise patients about inherited BOC and testing. These findings underscore the need for evidence-based recommendations on appropriate use of genetic tests and education of providers and the public to achieve maximum individual and public health benefit from genetic testing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Colorado
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Georgia
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Washington