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Genetic Testing and Breast Cancer

Is a Little Knowledge a Dangerous Thing?


Charlotte R. Zales
Education Department
Moravian College
Joseph C. Colosi
Biology Department
DeSales University


In this dilemma case, the central character, Kathy, must decide whether or not to be tested for known mutations in the breast cancer genes. Students assume the roles of members of Kathy’s book club and, using a jigsaw technique, explore the advantages and disadvantages of genetic testing. This case is appropriate for courses that deal with genetics, bioinformatics, biology of cancer, disease prevention, or ethical decision-making.


  • Formulate and defend a decision for or against genetic testing, taking into consideration various kinds of information, for a particular individual.
  • Analyze genetic testing and its role in maintaining health.
  • Examine disease prevention strategies, including diet, exercise, and stress reduction.
  • Critique the effect of obtaining genetic information on employment and health insurance and on personal decisions.
  • Calculate the impact of obtaining genetic information on families, medical knowledge, and society.


Genetic testing; genetic screening; DNA analysis; breast cancer; BRCA1; BRCA2; lifestyle choices; bioethics

Topical Areas

Ethics, Legal issues, Scientific argumentation, Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Dilemma/Decision, Jig-Saw, Role-Play



Subject Headings

Genetics / Heredity  |   Bioinformatics  |   Biology (General)  |   Medicine (General)  |  

Date Posted


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