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Be Well

Most mothers share cancer risk with kids, study finds

Many mothers who undergo genetic testing to understand their cancer risk share the results with their children, according to a new study.

The study included 221 mothers who underwent a genetic test looking for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which markedly raise the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The study from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center included women tested at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

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A month after receiving their results, 62 percent of the mothers said in a survey that they had shared the results with their children, who were between ages 8 and 21. Women who tested negative for the mutation or who had children over age 13 were more likely to share the results. On average, mothers who shared their test results were happier they did so compared with those who decided to keep their results private.

Mothers who tested negative for the mutations saw the result as good news, which may have made them more likely to tell their children. However, the study did not clarify the mothers’ reasons behind their decision to disclose. Children of women with the mutations are at increased risk of having the mutations themselves.

BOTTOM LINE: The majority of mothers who undergo genetic testing to learn their cancer risk share the results with their children.

CAUTIONS: The study relied on a survey, which might not have been accurate.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, July 3

Reading and writing preserves memory, researchers say

Consistently reading and writing throughout life can help preserve memory into old age, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago gave nearly 300 participants in their 80s a memory test each year for six years. The participants also answered a questionnaire about whether they regularly read books, wrote letters, and visited the library during childhood, adulthood, and at their current age.

After the participants died, their brains were examined in autopsies for signs of dementia. Participants who reported reading and writing throughout their life, especially in old age, were 32 percent less likely to show deterioration in brain regions involved in memory compared with those who said they did not regularly engage in those activities.

Those who reported infrequently reading and writing into old age experienced a 48 percent faster rate of memory loss, based on results of the memory tests and autopsies.

BOTTOM LINE: Consistently reading and writing throughout life can help preserve memory into old age.

CAUTIONS: The study relied in part on answers to a survey, which might not have been accurate. The study did not assess whether participants with brain indications of dementia actually displayed symptoms of the disease during their lifetime.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Neurology, July 3

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