Research Article| Volume 149, ISSUE 2, P337-340, May 2018

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Characteristics of African American women at high-risk for ovarian cancer in the southeast: Results from a Gynecologic Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic

Published:February 24, 2018DOI:


      • Knowledge of cancer related germline mutations in African American women is limited.
      • African Americans are underrepresented in genetic cancer risk assessment clinics.
      • Compared to white women, African Americans show similar rates of pathogenic variants.



      Describe patient characteristics in African American (AA) women seen for gynecologic cancer related genetic counseling at a large southeastern comprehensive cancer center.


      We reviewed an IRB approved, prospective observational cohort of patients from a Gynecologic Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic. Data evaluated included personal cancer history, family history, frequency of genetic testing, frequency/type of genetic mutations, and frequency of surgical intervention. Standard statistical statistics were utilized.


      1227 patients were evaluated from 2003 to 2015, of which 95 (7.7%) were AA. Sixteen patients had a personal history of ovarian cancer. 21 women (22%) underwent genetic counseling only; subsequent genetic testing was not recommended based on absence of risk factors. Of the seventy-four AA patients in whom genetic testing was recommended, sixty-six (69.5%) completed testing. Of women tested, 37 (56%) had abnormal results. Eight and 14 patients had pathogenic variants in BRCA1 and BRCA2, respectively. Two were found to have pathogenic PALB2 variants; one had a pathogenic ATM variant and one constitutional MLH1 epimutation case was identified. Eleven had BRCA variants of uncertain significance. Of the patients with abnormal testing, six of 22 women with pathogenic BRCA variants underwent risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (RRSO).


      Our study demonstrates that in a region where AAs represent 27% of the population, the proportion of AA patients referred to a Gynecologic Cancer Risk Assessment Clinic remains low. Pathogenic variant and variant of uncertain significance rates were high in patients tested, likely representing a selection bias of high-risk patients. Endeavors should continue to identify minorities at risk for ovarian cancer and institute measures to provide thorough genetic counseling and testing.


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