Study asks parents whether to share breast cancer risk with kids

5:54 PM, Jan 20, 2012   |    comments
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New York -- Women who have the breast cancer gene are 50 to 80 percent more likely to develop the disease. There's also a good chance they could pass the gene onto their children.

The question is, would you tell your child you were a carrier?

Laura McSpirit-Grier has  the BRCA gene which puts her at very high risk for breast cancer. She's most worried about what that means for her 14-year-old daughter Summer. After her twin sister, aunt and cousin developed breast cancer, Laura chose
to have her breasts and ovaries removed. She says she never questioned letting  her daughter know about her genetics.

"I needed to tell my daughter that she could possibly have the gene," McSpirit-Grier said.

A new study finds Laura did what most parents do. Researchers in Philadelphia looked at more than 253 parents who had genetic breast cancer testing and found that 66 percent shared their results with their kids.

"Some of the children were quite young at the time that they received  this information from their parents," Dr. Freya Schnabel with the NYU Langone Medical Center said.

There's a 50/50 chance women with the BRCA gene mutation will pass it onto their children. Most doctors don't want to test those children until they're in their 20s.

"It's not meaningful for the child, so we shouldn't subject the child to something that isn't constructive for them," Dr. Schnabel added.

Summer plans to be tested when she's older.

"It might worry me if i know that i have it -- but I would rather have the knowledge that I can help save myself," Summer Flanagan said.

Now that doctors can isolate these genes, this mother and daughter are hoping scientists will find a way to silence them.

It's estimated that about 10 percent of all breast cancers are related to BRCA gene mutations.

CBS News