Influence of genetic discrimination perceptions and knowledge on cancer genetics referral practice among clinicians

Genet Med. 2008 Sep;10(9):691-8. doi: 10.1097/gim.0b013e3181837246.


Purpose: To describe nongenetics clinicians' perceptions and knowledge of cancer genetics and laws prohibiting genetic discrimination, attitudes toward the use of cancer genetic testing, and referral practices.

Methods: Invitations to participate were sent to a random stratified sample of California Medical Association members and to all members of California Association of Nurse Practitioners and California Latino Medical Association. Responders in active practice were eligible and completed a 47-item survey.

Results: There were 1181 qualified participants (62% physicians). Although 96% viewed genetic testing as beneficial for their patients, 75% believed fear of genetic discrimination would cause patients to decline testing. More than 60% were not aware of federal or California laws prohibiting health insurance discrimination--concern about genetic discrimination was selected as a reason for nonreferral by 11%. A positive attitude toward genetic testing was the strongest predictor of referral (odds ratio: 3.55 [95% confidence interval: 2.24-5.63], P < 0.001) in stepwise logistic regression analyses. The higher the belief in genetic discrimination, the less likely a participant was to refer (odds ratio: 0.72 [95% confidence interval: 0.518-0.991], P < 0.05), whereas more knowledge of genetic discrimination law was associated with comfort recommending (odds ratio: 1.18 [95% confidence interval: 1.11-1.25], P < 0.001) and actual referral (odds ratio: 3.55 [95% confidence interval: 2.24-5.63], P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Concerns about genetic discrimination and knowledge deficits may be barriers to cancer genetics referrals. Clinician education may help promote access to cancer screening and prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • California
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Privacy / psychology*
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse Practitioners / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires