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

choices instead of generally promoting the positive value of early disease screening, genetic testing, or preventive surgeries and therapies. The current research findings support this approach and identify key areas of women's disease risk perceptions that should be considered when developing public health messages for this target audience.

"The experience of living in a family shapes our attitudes toward illness and health, which in turn exerts a large influence on whether or not we adopt healthy behaviors not to mention the fact that our relatives tend to share a lot of genetic overlap in terms of the disease risks that we have inherited," said Rubinstein. "It is for these reasons that family health history is considered to be the 'gold standard' for disease risk assessment that will help us achieve the full benefit of personalized medicine through the effective use and application of patients' genetic information in clinical practice."

"The results of our analyses indicate that while health risk perceptions are generally in agreement with medically-recognized family history risk factors, some perceptions often run counter to actual risk," Rubinstein noted. "For example, our research findings suggest that many patients think cancer risk decreases with age, when in fact it increases with age."

"Understanding women's 'mental model' of disease and how they interpret family health history information is critical for effective communication of disease risk through health care providers, family history tools, and public health campaign messages designed for this target audience," said Rubenstein.

Family Health History Education to Improve Genetic Risk Assessment for Cancer

Implementation of a comprehensive genetics education program for primary care clinicians at the Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles (VA GLA) Healthcare System has resulted in better cancer family history documentation, improved reco
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Contact: Kristen Long
klong@ashg.org
301-634-7346
American Society of Human Genetics
Source:Eurekalert

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