Adolescent girls in families with a history of breast cancer or a high-risk BRCA1/2 mutation are less likely to experience negative psychological effects, finds a new study.
“Overall, girls in families with a history of breast cancer seem to cope pretty well over time; they do worry more about breast cancer than their peers do, particularly as they get older, but that doesn’t seem to impact them in terms of depression, anxiety, and general psychosocial adjustment,” said Angela R. Bradbury, Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, US.
The new research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology followed 320 girls, 208 of whom were from families with a history of breast cancer or BRCA1/2 mutations in near relatives, while 112 had no such family history.
The researchers interviewed the girls and their birth mothers and administered standard tests to assess their psychosocial adjustment, perception of breast cancer risk, and breast cancer-specific distress.
The girls with a family history of breast cancer scored much higher on measures of perceived breast cancer risk and breast-cancer-specific distress compared to the controls, yet they had no symptoms of general psychosocial adjustment including anxiety and depression.
Intriguingly, the girls from families with a history of breast cancer scored modestly but significantly higher on a measure of self-esteem.
“Self-esteem was higher among girls with a stronger family history of breast cancer, whereas depression was lower with an increasing number of relatives with breast cancer,” Bradbury added.
For all the girls in the study, perceptions of breast cancer risk rose as they grew older and matured mentally, and in terms of breast development. But the perceived risk was always higher among the girls with a breast cancer family history, suggested the findings.