It has never been more urgent to ensure that advances in genomic technologies do not further widen existing cancer health disparities. In the fall of 2020, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) put forth a report focused on cancer health disparities, in which they highlighted several issues.1 Notably, disparities in inherited cancer care were included throughout the report, including that there is inadequate representation and a lack of data in genomic studies from other racial and ethnic minorities, such as African Americans and Hispanics. Consequently, our current knowledge of cancer genetics cannot be applied to all populations, limiting our understanding of inherited cancer risks in racial and ethnic minorities.
Another important study to which the ICARE effort contributed is the largest study evaluating inherited gene mutations in Black women with breast cancer.2 Results showed inherited gene mutations were found in young Black women, including ~10% with ER- breast cancer and ~5% with ER+ breast cancer. These findings reinforce that it is important to test for inherited cancer genes across all populations. In another study in which a group of diverse patients received genetic counseling before testing, results showed that race/ethnicity did not influence levels of distress and uncertainty experienced by patients.3 While these results are reassuring, it is important to recognize that many individuals receive genetic testing without counseling, highlighting the need to conduct additional studies like this across different healthcare settings.
1American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report 2020. Available at: tinyurl.com/AACRCDPR. 2Palmer, et al. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2020 Dec. PMID: 32427313. 3Culver, et al. Cancer. 2020 Dec. PMID: 33320347.