Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 136, Issue 3, pp 749–757 | Cite as

Knowledge and perceptions of familial and genetic risks for breast cancer risk in adolescent girls

  • Angela R. Bradbury
  • Linda Patrick-Miller
  • Brian L. Egleston
  • Lisa A. Schwartz
  • Colleen B. Sands
  • Rebecca Shorter
  • Cynthia W. Moore
  • Lisa Tuchman
  • Paula Rauch
  • Shreya Malhotra
  • Brianne Rowan
  • Stephanie Van Decker
  • Helen Schmidheiser
  • Lisa Bealin
  • Patrick Sicilia
  • Mary B. Daly
Clinical Trial


Evidence suggests early events might modify adult breast cancer risk and many adolescents learn of familial and genetic risks for breast cancer. Little is known about how adolescent girls understand and respond to breast cancer risk. Semi-structured interviews with 11–19 year-old girls at high-risk and population-risk for breast cancer evaluated knowledge and perceptions of breast cancer risk and risk modification. Framework analysis and descriptive statistics were utilized to analyze open-ended responses. Risk group and age differences were evaluated by Fisher’s exact and McNemar’s tests. Fifty-four girls (86 % of invited), 35 high-risk (65 %), and 19 population-risk (35 %) completed interviews. The most frequently reported risk for breast cancer was family history/hereditary predisposition (66 %). Only 17 % of girls were aware of BRCA1/2 genes. The majority (76 %) of high-risk girls perceive themselves to be at increased risk for breast cancer, compared to 22 % of population-risk girls (p = 0.001). Half of girls reported that women can get breast cancer before 20-years-old. The majority believe there are things women (70 %) and girls (67 %) can do to prevent breast cancer. Mother was the most frequently reported source of information for breast cancer among both high-risk (97 %) and population-risk (89 %) girls. In this study, many high-risk girls perceive themselves to be at increased risk for breast cancer, and many girls believe that breast cancer can occur in teens. Yet, most girls believe there are things women and girls can do to prevent breast cancer. Research evaluating the impact of awareness and perceptions of breast cancer risk on psychosocial, health, and risk behaviors is needed to develop strategies to optimize responses to cancer risk.


Adolescents Breast cancer Breast cancer prevention Cancer risk assessment Perceived risk of cancer 



American Cancer Society, Mentored Research Scholar Award (MRSG 07-014-01-CPPB). Support was also provided by NIH grant P30 CA006927 and the Fox Chase Cancer Center Keystone Program in Personalized Risk and Prevention.

Conflict of interest

There are no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angela R. Bradbury
    • 1
    • 2
  • Linda Patrick-Miller
    • 3
    • 4
  • Brian L. Egleston
    • 5
  • Lisa A. Schwartz
    • 6
  • Colleen B. Sands
    • 1
  • Rebecca Shorter
    • 1
  • Cynthia W. Moore
    • 7
  • Lisa Tuchman
    • 8
  • Paula Rauch
    • 7
  • Shreya Malhotra
    • 9
  • Brianne Rowan
    • 9
  • Stephanie Van Decker
    • 9
  • Helen Schmidheiser
    • 9
  • Lisa Bealin
    • 9
  • Patrick Sicilia
    • 1
  • Mary B. Daly
    • 9
  1. 1.Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of MedicineUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical Ethics and Health PolicyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of MedicineThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Global HealthThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  5. 5.Biostatistics FacilityFox Chase Cancer CenterPhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.Division of Oncology, Department of PediatricsThe Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  7. 7.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA
  8. 8.The Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s National Medical Center, Children’s Research InstituteCenter for Clinical and Community ResearchWashingtonUSA
  9. 9.Department of Clinical GeneticsFox Chase Cancer CenterPhiladelphiaUSA

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