Oral Presentation COSA-IPOS Joint Scientific Meeting 2012

Are Indigenous Australians interested in family history and genetic predisposition to cancer? A report of cancer patients in Queensland (#145)

Christina M Bernardes 1 , Patricia C Valery 1 , Gail Garvey 1
  1. Menzies School of Health Research, Spring Hill, QLD, Australia

Aims: Genetic research can be extremely sensitive and it is an area that requires much consideration in Indigenous Health. This study sought to explore the levels of interest amongst Indigenous people with cancer in identifying cancer risk in their family and seeking genetic counselling.

Methods: We used quantitative data collected via face-to-face interviews from Indigenous adult cancer patients taking part in a study investigating their supportive care needs. Here we describe participants’ family history of cancer and their willingness to discuss about cancer risk in their family.

Results: Two hundred and twenty five Indigenous patients with cancer were interviewed. Overall, participants were mainly female (56%), with an average age of 53 years (range 20-78 years), had an educational level less than high school (< Year 12) (66%), were married (47%), unemployed (75%) and lived outer regional areas (41%). 73% of participants reported having family history of cancer, of those, 50% had a first degree relative with cancer. Overall, 68% of participants indicated concern about relatives being affected by cancer and more than half of the participants (55.2%) indicated they would like to have discussions about cancer risk in their family with a specialist.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that a large number Indigenous cancer patients do have family history of cancer and appeared to be willing undergo genetic counselling/investigation. The identification of hereditary predisposition to cancer is important because the prevalence of familial cancer in some cancer types is sufficiently high to have clinical impact. Despite the historical controversy about genetic testing amongst Indigenous population, discussion about its utilization must continue and involve Indigenous people. Furthermore, it is of great concern that this population could miss the benefits of the technological advances in health care creating a much larger disparity in health outcomes.