Learning of your parent's BRCA mutation during adolescence or early adulthood: a study of offspring experiences

Psychooncology. 2009 Feb;18(2):200-8. doi: 10.1002/pon.1384.


Objective: To examine the experience, comprehension and perceptions of learning of a parent's BRCA mutation during adolescence and early adulthood, and explore the impact on offspring's physical and psychosocial well-being.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were completed with 22 adult offspring who learned of their parent's BRCA mutation prior to age 25 years. Data were summarized using qualitative methods and response proportions.

Results: Offspring reports of the content shared varied; discussion of cancer risks and offspring genetic testing were described more frequently than risk modification strategies. The majority of offspring reported a good understanding of the information shared and no negative aspects for learning this information. Some offspring reported changing their health behaviors after learning of the familial mutation; many tobacco users stopped smoking. Offspring interest in genetic counseling surrounding parent disclosure and genetic testing during adulthood were high.

Conclusions: Some offspring understand and respond adaptively to early communication of a genetic risk for cancer, and disclosure may foster improved health behaviors during adolescence and young adulthood. Further research is necessary to evaluate how offspring conceptualize and utilize genetic risk and to identify the biopsychosocial factors predictive of adaptive/maladaptive responses to early disclosure of hereditary risk for adult cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Children / psychology*
  • Chicago
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1*
  • Genes, BRCA2*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / psychology
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Truth Disclosure*