Cancer Fatalism and Engagement with Skin Cancer Genetic Information

Cancer Fatalism and Engagement with Skin Cancer Genetic Information

A research team led by Dr. Jennifer Hay from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Dr. Marianne Berwick from the University of New Mexico, and including Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel, has published results from a study in Psycho-Oncology. The research paper is entitled, “Exploring the role of cancer fatalism and engagement with skin cancer genetic information in diverse primary care patients.”

Cancer fatalism is important in cancer prevention and deserves theoretical and empirical attention in the context of genomics and behavior change. This study was designed to broaden the currently limited reach of genomic innovations, and to help understand how psychosocial and cultural factors influence reactions to genetic testing in diverse subgroups.

The study employed data from a randomized controlled trial offering skin cancer genetic testing (using the melanocortin-1 receptor [MC1R] gene) to 593 people in primary care in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The authors examined interrelations of cancer fatalism with demographics, general health beliefs, perceived risk, perceived control, sun protection and skin screening behaviors, and cancer worry in the skin cancer context stratified across Hispanic versus non-Hispanic ethnicity. It examined cancer fatalism as a moderator of intervention effects on study primary outcomes, including 3-month sun protection, cancer worry, and perceived risk.

Cancer fatalism was significantly related to the perception of control over skin cancer risk behaviors and demographics (ethnicity, education, health literacy), but not consistently related to general health beliefs or risk perception. Cancer fatalism did not moderate intervention effects on primary outcomes, except that those with higher cancer fatalism randomized to intervention had higher levels of 3-month cancer worry. Study significance, methods, analyses are detailed in the Psycho-Oncology paper.  

These findings will guide future work considering the role of cancer fatalism in use of genomic technologies in the general population. This work anticipates strategies required to address cancer fatalism as translational genomics becomes more commonly available to diverse general population subgroups.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute (CA181241; Dr. Jennifer Hay and Dr. Marianne Berwick, Multiple Principal Investigators). Authors in addition to the Principal Investigators include Dr. Yelena Wu and Dr. Kimberly Kaphingst from the University of Utah; Ms. Elizabeth Schofield and Dr. Yuelin Li from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Dr. Andrew Sussman, Dr. Dolores Guest, and Dr. Keith Hunley from the University of New Mexico; and Dr. David Buller from Klein Buendel.

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