Introduction: Identifying individuals at highest risk for cancer may improve prevention and early detection efforts in these populations. Nonetheless, awareness and use of genetic testing remains low, particularly among ethnic minorities in the United States. Given the lack of information on the subject particularly for Puerto Ricans, this study aimed to determine the prevalence and correlates of genetic testing awareness and use in a population-based sample of adults in Puerto Rico.

Methods: We analyzed data from adults aged (18+ years) participating in the 2009 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) conducted in Puerto Rico (n=639), with complete information regarding age, sex, genetic test awareness, and use (n=611,95.6%). Using the Spanish version of the HINTS 2007-2008 survey, the HINTS Puerto Rico data collection was conducted from April to June 2009 through the PR-Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (PR-BRFSS) telephone research center. The 2009 PR-HINTS utilized a cross-sectional, complex sample survey design, data weighting, and jackknife variance estimation. Prevalence odds ratios were estimated with 95% confidence intervals using logistic regression models in order to identify factors associated with genetic testing awareness and use in Puerto Rico. Awareness about genetic tests was measured by the following item: “Genetic tests that analyze your DNA, diet, and lifestyle for potential health risks are currently being marketed by companies directly to consumers. Have you heard or read about these genetic tests.”

Results: Mean age of study participants was 45.9 years; 52.9% of participants were women and 47.1 % were men. Overall, 55.8% (95% CI=48.4%-63.2%) of the study population had heard or read about genetic tests, while only 4.3% (95% CI=1.6%-7.0%) had ever had any of these tests performed. In multivariate analysis, no differences in awareness of genetic tests were observed by age, sex, or educational attainment (p>0.05); whereas, marital status was associated with genetic test awareness. Those married/living together and those divorced/separated/widowed were more likely to be aware of genetic tests compared to those never married (p<0.05). Current smokers were less likely than never smokers (OR=0.52,95% CI: 0.31-0.88) to be aware of genetic tests, whereas no differences were observed between former and never smokers (p>0.05). Those who ever sought cancer information were two times as likely to had heard or read about genetic testing of their existence (OR=2.01,95% CI=1.05-3.82); however health information was not associated with awareness of genetic tests in multivariate analyses, those who had sought information on cancer were twice. Neither personal nor family history of cancer were associated with genetic testing awareness (p > 0.05).

Conclusions: This study provides the first published data on the awareness and use of genetic tests in Puerto Rico. Although our results for test awareness and use are higher than those reported in the U.S. in the 2006 Health Styles national survey (14% and 0.6%, respectively), 40% of the population remains unaware of their existence. This information is relevant for determining the need for population-based outreach and education efforts in this area.

Citation Information: Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2010;19(10 Suppl):A36.