Psychological and genetic counseling implications for adolescent daughters of mothers with breast cancer

Clin Genet. 2005 Jun;67(6):481-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0004.2005.00456.x.


Adolescent daughters of women with breast cancer (BC) are themselves at risk for heritable BC. Although some preliminary evidence suggests this group is at an increased risk for emotional problems, evidence is limited to studies with small samples and no comparison groups. This study examined psychological and family functioning, health attitudes and beliefs about genetic risks in adolescent females. A case-comparison design was used to compare 55 mother-daughter pairs in which the mother had been treated for BC (BC group) to 55 families from the general population (GP). Participants completed an assessment battery measuring perceptions of personal risk for BC and attitudes about gene testing for BC susceptibility, family functioning, and adolescent psychological adjustment. Based on manova, no significant differences were found between the two groups on measures of the psychological functioning. However, BC group adolescents reported significant (p < 0.01) worries about their future health and genetic risk for BC. About 68% of BC adolescents compared with 12% of GP adolescents reported being moderately to greatly concerned about their susceptibility to genetic mutations. Further, 85% of BC group adolescents believed they were susceptible to BC compared with 10% of GP adolescents. The results indicated no evidence of emotional, behavioral, or familial distress in these families. However, BC adolescents have significant worries about their future health. The results of this study demonstrate the need to develop a comprehensive model of care where accurate information about genetics and health risks can be provided. The adolescents also need support to help them cope and communicate with their mothers their worries about BC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling / psychology*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Family / psychology
  • Psychology, Adolescent