, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 433-447
Date: 14 Nov 2006

Better the Devil You Know? High-Risk Individuals’ Anticipated Psychological Responses to Genetic Testing for Melanoma Susceptibility

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Purpose: The psychological consequences of genetic testing for mutations among individuals at increased risk of developing melanoma remain unexamined. The present study aimed to explore anticipated emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and familial responses to hypothetical genetic testing for melanoma susceptibility. Methods: Forty semi-structured interviews were undertaken with affected (n=20) and unaffected (n=20) individuals at either high or average risk of developing melanoma due to family history. Results: In-depth thematic analysis revealed that, in response to being identified as a mutation carrier, most participants with a family history anticipated calmly accepting their increased risk; either increasing precaution adoption or maintaining already vigilant behavioral practices; perceiving such information as important and valuable; and communicating genetic test results to family members, despite the acknowledgement of potential difficulties. In response to being identified as a non-carrier, the majority of participants expected to feel relieved; to maintain current precautionary health practices; to still perceive themselves at some risk of developing melanoma; and to be wary of the potential negative behavioral consequences of disclosing such information to family members. Women appeared more likely than men to acknowledge the potential for depression and worry following genetic testing. In contrast, more males than females expected to carry a gene mutation, and viewed their current preventive practices as optimum. Conclusion: Genetic testing for melanoma risk is likely to elicit a complex array of emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and familial responses for both testees and their family members, and these responses are likely to bear subtle differences for males and females.