Racial and ethnic minority groups are less aware than whites of genetic testing for cancer risk

Research Activities, May 2010, No. 357

Genetic testing for cancer susceptibility is becoming more commonplace because of the availability of new tests and guidelines for genetic counseling and testing. However, racial and ethnic minorities make less use of genetic testing and counseling for cancer risk than whites. A national survey attributes much of this disparity to lower awareness of genetic testing among ethnic and racial minorities. The survey found that only 31 percent of blacks, 28 percent of Asians, and 19 percent of Hispanics had heard about genetic testing compared with 48 percent of whites. Education, length of U.S. residence, residential region, and other factors contributed differently to the disparity in genetic testing awareness among different minority groups, notes Jose A. Pagan, Ph.D., of the University of North Texas Health Science Center.

For example, the survey found that 26 percent and 30 percent of the gap between Hispanics and whites was explained by education and nativity/length of residence, respectively. Similarly, 22 percent of the gap between blacks and whites was explained by education. Region of residence explained another 11 percent of the gap, while 51 percent of the gap between Asians and whites was due to nativity/length of residence in the U.S.

The data for the study came from the 2005 National Health Interview Survey. Since the importance and likely influence on genetic testing awareness of each of the explanatory factors often differs across minority groups, the researchers note that policy remedies are unlikely to have uniform population effects. They suggest development of culturally competent approaches targeted to specific racial and ethnic groups to improve awareness of genetic testing and counseling. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17003).

See "Racial and ethnic disparities in awareness of genetic testing for cancer risk," by Dr. Pagan, Dejun Su, Ph.D., Lifeng Li, M.P.H., and others in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine 37(6), pp. 524-530.

Current as of May 2010
Internet Citation: Racial and ethnic minority groups are less aware than whites of genetic testing for cancer risk: Research Activities, May 2010, No. 357. May 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/may10/0510RA18.html