Study Finds Gap in Public Awareness About BRCA and Genetic Testing in Prostate Cancer

Genetic testing, particularly for BRCA1/2, is increasingly important in prostate cancer (PCa) care, with impacts on PCa management and hereditary cancer risk. However, the findings of a new study suggest the extent of public awareness about genetic testing in PCa is lacking. The results were published in JMIR (Journal of Medical Internet Research) Cancer.

In this study, researchers sought to characterize the activity and engagement of social media users across multiple platforms (Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube) pertaining to BRCA and genetic testing for PCa compared with breast cancer, which has a long history of public awareness, advocacy, and prominent social media presence. They procured metrics for tweets spanning 2016 to 2020 focused on comparing the following hashtags: #BRCA and #breastcancer, #BRCA and #prostatecancer, #genetictesting and #breastcancer, and #genetictesting and #prostatecancer. The investigators assessed the total number of tweets, users, and reach for each hashtag and performed content analysis for a subset of tweets.

According to the results, over the five-year period, there were 10,005 tweets for #BRCA and #breastcancer, versus 1,008 tweets about #BRCA and #prostatecancer. There were also more tweets about #genetictesting and #breastcancer (n=1,748), compared with #genetictesting and #prostatecancer (n=328). Tweets about genetic testing (12,921,954) and BRCA (75,724,795) in breast cancer also had substantially greater reach than those about PCa (1,463,777 and 4,849,905, respectively). Facebook groups and pages regarding PCa and BRCA/genetic testing had fewer average members, new members, and new posts, as well as fewer likes and followers compared with breast cancer, the researchers noted. Facebook videos also had more engagement than YouTube videos across both PCa and breast cancer content.

“There is substantially less social media engagement about BRCA and genetic testing in PCa compared with breast cancer,” the researchers concluded. “This landscape analysis provides insights into strategies for leveraging social media platforms to increase public awareness about PCa germline testing, including use of Facebook to share video content and Twitter for discussions with health professionals.”