Preteen girls with a family history of breast cancer or genetic mutations that elevate the risk for developing breast cancer seem to have similar levels of general anxiety, depression, and overall psychosocial adjustment as other girls, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Pediatrics has shown.1

“There has been debate over the value of educating teens about breast cancer risk—and about testing teens for high risk mutations, but what we don’t know yet is whether warnings and worries about breast cancer do more harm than good at that age,” said lead investigator Angela R. Bradbury, MD, an assistant professor of Hematology/Oncology and Medical Ethics and Health Policy at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey data on behaviors and other measures of psychosocial adjustment from 869 girls age 6 to 13 years in the United States and Canada, and their mothers. Of those, some had a family history of breast cancer and some had near-relative with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations.

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“What the new data suggest is that even with increased awareness of breast cancer among many girls, those in at-risk families show no more signs of anxiety- and depression-related behaviors overall, compared to girls with no breast cancer family history,” Bradbury said.

The researchers also found that daughters with higher anxiety tended to have mothers with increased anxiety, suggesting that the best way to help their daughters cope is for mothers to improve their own psychological health.


1. Family risk of breast cancer does not affect psychosocial adjustment among preteens girls. EurekAlert! website. October 20, 2015. Accessed October 21, 2015.