Perceptions of genetic discrimination among at-risk relatives of colorectal cancer patients

Genet Med. 2004 Nov-Dec;6(6):510-6. doi: 10.1097/01.gim.0000144013.96456.6c.


Purpose: To explore the concerns of at-risk relatives of colorectal cancer patients about genetic discrimination and their awareness of current legislative protections.

Methods: A questionnaire was sent to unaffected individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer who had enrolled in the Johns Hopkins Hereditary Colorectal Cancer Registry (N = 777).

Results: Of the 470 respondents, approximately half rated their level of concern about genetic discrimination as high. The majority of respondents, 79%, learned about genetic discrimination from at least one media source (television, newspapers, magazines, and radio). If they were to pursue genetic testing, respondents with a higher level of concern about genetic discrimination would be significantly more likely to pay out of pocket, use an alias, or ask for test results to be excluded from their medical record. Awareness and understanding of legislation regarding genetic discrimination was found to be minimal.

Conclusion: Findings from this study demonstrate the negative effect of concerns about genetic discrimination on decisions about utilization of genetic services. Stronger legislative protections against genetic discrimination and increased public education through the scientific community and media sources are needed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Colorectal Neoplasms*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Genetic Privacy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Genetic Testing / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patients*
  • Prejudice*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States