A recent study published in the JAMA Dermatology journal, entitled “Family Risk Discussions After Feedback on Genetic Risk of Melanoma” found that positive information on the genetic risk of melanoma might help people to discuss this subject with more family members.
First-degree relatives of patients with melanoma are among the first to seek genetic risk information, since this type of cancer has a highly genetic component and people with a family history of melanoma have increased changes of developing the disease.
As such, this study sought to examine the possible discussions of first degree relatives of patients with melanoma with different family members after receiving hypothetical melanoma genetic risk feedback information.
“This study shows us that individuals are sensitive to receiving genetic risk information, regardless of the results, and will likely increase their willingness to discuss melanoma risk and prevention strategies with their families after receiving this type of feedback,” study author Mallorie Gordon, MA, of the department of psychology, New School for Social Research, New York, NY, said in a Cancer Network interview. “This study indicates that providing genetic risk information to patients and their families may not only improve their understanding of their particular skin health needs—specifically telling patients whether their melanoma risk is related to heredity or sun exposure, as defined by the feedback type of the genetic test—but also improve the risk communication that exists around melanoma and its prevention overall.”
During the study, Dr. Gordon and her team assigned 139 subjects with first-degree relatives with melanoma one of six feedback scenario conditions: information regarding inherited mutations in the CDKN2A gene (hereditary melanoma), information on MC1R mutations (involved in melanoma caused by sun exposure), or nongenetic risks such as number of moles.
When researchers asked participants the frequency of family discussions concerning melanoma risk, the answers were different before and after the study, with subjects more likely to indicate intent to have a discussion about risk if they received positive compared with negative feedback.
“This study found that genetic testing increased intended risk discussion with multiple family members, including parents, siblings, and children. In particular, receiving positive genetic risk information—meaning that the genetic testing showed that the individual was at increased risk for developing melanoma—would lead to a larger intended increase in family risk discussion than when receiving negative results”, Dr. Gordon explained.
The authors conclude that melanoma genetic testing can result in increased communication between family members that have a history of melanoma cases, enhancing the probabilities of early diagnosis and prevention of this type of malignancy.