It is important to examine adolescent and young adult (AYA) children’s long-term psychosocial and behavioral adaptation to disclosure of maternal BRCA-positive carrier status (BRCA+) to inform approaches for familial cancer risk communication, education, and counseling.


Mothers underwent BRCA genetic testing 1 to 5 years earlier. Group differences in AYAs' self-reported outcomes were analyzed by maternal health and carrier status, and child age and sex.


A total of N = 272 AYAs were enrolled: 76.1% of their mothers were breast or ovarian cancer survivors and 17.3% were BRCA+. AYAs’ cancer risk behavior (tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity) and psychologic distress levels did not vary by maternal status. In bivariate analyses, AYAs of cancer-surviving mothers believed themselves to be at greater risk for, and were more knowledgeable about, cancer than AYAs of mothers without cancer. AYAs of BRCA+ mothers were more concerned about cancer, held stronger beliefs about genetic risk, and placed a higher value on learning about genetics. In adjusted models, maternal cancer history (not BRCA+) remained associated with AYAs’ greater perceptions of cancer risk (P = .002), and knowledge about cancer (P = .03) and its causes (P = .002).


Disclosing maternal BRCA+ status did not influence children’s lifestyle behavior or adversely affect quality of life long term. AYAs of BRCA+ mothers were more aware of and interested in genetic risk information. Such families may benefit from support to promote open communication about genetic testing choices.

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