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Studies validate use of family health history as gold standard in disease risk assessment
Date:11/5/2010

cs most closely related to women's risk perceptions about cancer.

Dr. Rubinstein's team examined data from 2,505 healthy women, ages 35-65, who were enrolled through 41 primary care practices participating in the Family Healthware Impact Trial (FHITr). The women reported detailed information about their family health history of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and breast, colon, and ovarian cancer. In addition, the women also reported on their perceived risk, extent of worry, perceived severity and perceived control over getting (or preventing) these diseases.

The study participants provided information on a total of 41,841 relatives. Excluding their parents, significantly more women reported having a family history of cancer in their maternal versus paternal lineage. In addition, having a family history of cancer on the paternal versus the maternal side was associated with a lower perceived risk for breast cancer. Cancer-specific perceived risks were present for all three cancers for the total number of relatives, or having any first-degree relative with that type of cancer. The research results also indicate that there were novel "spillover" effects wherein a positive family history of breast or colon cancer was associated with a higher perceived risk of ovarian cancer. Furthermore, according to the study findings, age and parenthood were associated with disease perceptions in ways that ran counter to empiric risks.

The researchers concluded that gaining a better understanding the elements that contribute to women's disease perceptions has important implications for communicating health risks to this target audience. The research findings suggest that female patients have limited awareness and understanding of the relevance of their paternal family medical history. Some have suggested that public health education programs should place a stronger emphasis on patient-centered approaches aimed at helping patients achieve informed
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Contact: Kristen Long
klong@ashg.org
301-634-7346
American Society of Human Genetics
Source:Eurekalert

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