Purpose: To assess the impact of direct-to-consumer marketing of genetic testing for risk of breast and ovarian cancer by a biotechnology company on: 1) physicians' knowledge; 2) reasons given when asking questions about the test; and 3) physicians' practice patterns in two pilot cities where the campaign took place and two control cities.
Methods: Survey of randomly selected family physicians, internists, obstetrician-gynecologists, and oncologists from May 1-May 21, 2003.
Results: Physicians' knowledge did not differ between pilot and control cities. Significant differences (pilot versus control cities) were seen in the reasons patients gave for asking questions about testing. More physicians in pilot cities (14%) than control cities (7%) reported an increase in the number of times they ordered genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer risk in the previous 6 months (adjusted odds ratio 1.9, 95% confidence interval, 1.2-3.1). Awareness of professional guidelines and being in a practice with a policy on genetic testing for risk of breast and ovarian cancer were associated with physicians' behaviors and interest among patients in testing.
Conclusions: Given the complexity and limitations of genetic testing for risk of breast and ovarian cancer, the development and broad dissemination of clinical guidelines and education of physicians are needed.