Although BRCA1/2 testing has increasingly entered clinical practice, much is to be learned about the most effective ways to provide counseling to persons potentially interested in receiving test results. The purpose of this study was to identify factors affecting genetic testing decisions in a cohort of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) families presented with the choice to undergo testing. Relatives in these families are known to carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. Sociodemographics, personality traits, and family functioning were self-assessed using validated psychometric instruments at baseline. Among 172 individuals who participated in pretest education and counseling, 135 (78%) chose to undergo genetic testing and 37 (22%) chose not to be tested. Individuals who chose to undergo genetic testing were more likely to be older (> or =40 years), to have lower levels of optimism, and to report higher levels of cohesiveness in their families. A better understanding of factors that influence interest in predictive testing may help to inform the counseling that occurs prior to genetic testing.