US task force highlights benefits of BRCA testing

21 February 2014

The US Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published a statement indicating that breast cancer antigen BRCA testing is beneficial for high-risk women.

Primary care providers are advised to screen women with a family history of breast, ovarian, tubal or peritoneal cancer. If the result is positive, the women should undergo genetic counselling and possibly BRCA testing. This may reveal potentially harmful mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with susceptibility to these cancers.

This recommendation is based upon a systematic literature review, and updates the last USPSTF advice, which was issued in 2005. Researchers stressed that there is little reason to test low-risk women.

"Evidence still shows that there are serious, negative consequences that could result from testing women who are at low risk for BRCA mutations," said Virginia Moyer, chair of the USPSTF. "The BRCA test works best for women who have reviewed their family history of breast or ovarian cancer and the pros and con of the screening test with a trained professional."

She stressed that additional research could improve cancer screening still further, adding: "We have great hope in the science of genomics to improve screening practices and even prevent some cancers."



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