In the years following the discovery of the BRCA mutation, testing has become increasingly common. However, women who are at high risk for cancers may be missing out according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Researchers looked at data from 53,254 women who had insurance claims for BRCA mutation testing between 2004 and 2014. They looked at trends in the use of BRCA mutation testing in women who were unaffected by breast or ovarian cancer and those who had a previous diagnosis of either disease.
The proportion of women receiving BRCA mutation testing who had no previous diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer significantly increased from 24.3% in 2004 to 61.5% in 2014 (P < 0.001). Across all subgroup of unaffected women, an increase in BRCA testing was found. By 2014, most of the subgroups had a proportion over 50%, excluding women aged 51 to 65 years and women who had no familial history of breast cancer. In women aged 20 to 40 years, there was a much lower proportion of BRCA testing among those women who had previously been diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer than in those with no previous diagnosis (17.6% vs 41.7%, P <0.001).
The researchers concluded that while originally thought of as a way of catching breast and ovarian cancer in the very early stages of the diseases among women with a previous history, BRCA mutation testing is used more in women with no previous cancer diagnosis.