Report: routine genetic testing for cancer risk not needed for all women

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The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has recommended against regular genetic counseling and DNA testing for diseases, according the Sept. 6 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. This is the first time the task force has voiced specific recommendations on this issue.

Specifically, the USPSTF has decided against recommending routine testing to determine the presence the gene mutations BRCA1 and BRCA2 which are commonly believed to be linked to breast or ovarian cancers. The talk force's stand on the issue is especially for woman that do not have a family history of either illness. In such woman the likelihood of a positive test result are low.

In the instance of woman that do have a higher risk level considering family history, physician should recommend the genetic tests the task force suggests that physicians does, accordin to the report.

There are a number of ways that that women determined to have BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations can reduce their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, such as mastectomy or oophorectomy, intensive screening through clinical breast exams and mammography or preventive chemotherapy. However the report notes that the benefits of such attempts remain uncertain.

To put things in some perspective, the report states that just 2 percent of women have histories that elevate their risk in having BRCA mutations. Additionally, not all woman with these mutation will develop the cancers linked to them.

The genetic tests are also far from perfect. In the report the task force noted that there is risk of false positives in some women which could lead to surgery that is not needed. The testing costs are also prohibitive (in the thousands of dollars) and not all insurance companies are willing to cover it, according to the reports.