The influence of psychological distress on use of genetic testing for cancer risk

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1997 Jun;65(3):414-20. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.65.3.414.


The recent identification of BRCA1, a breast cancer susceptibility gene, offers an unprecedented opportunity for high-risk individuals to learn whether they are genetically predisposed to develop breast or ovarian cancer. This study examined the relationships between psychological distress and use of BRCA1 testing by 149 high-risk individuals from hereditary cancer families. After a baseline assessment of demographics, objective risk, cancer-specific distress, and global distress (depressive symptoms), study participants were offered the opportunity to receive genetic counseling and to learn whether they carry a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. Overall, 58% of study participants requested BRCA1 test results, and 42% declined to learn their genetic status. After controlling for demographic factors and risk status, cancer-specific distress was significantly and positively related to BRCA1 test use, whereas global distress was unrelated to test use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*