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J Genet Couns. 2009 Jun;18(3):217-28. doi: 10.1007/s10897-008-9210-z. Epub 2009 Mar 17.

A systematic review of the impact of genetic counseling on risk perception accuracy.

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  • 1School for Public Health and Primary Care (Caphri), Department of Health Education and Health Promotion, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Science, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.


This review presents an overview of the impact of genetic counseling on risk perception accuracy in papers published between January 2000 and February 2007. The results suggest that genetic counseling may have a positive impact on risk perception accuracy, though some studies observed no impact at all, or only for low-risk participants. Several implications for future research can be deduced. First, future researchers should link risk perception changes to objective risk estimates, define risk perception accuracy as the correct counseled risk estimate, and report both the proportion of individuals who correctly estimate their risk and the average overestimation of the risk. Second, as the descriptions of the counseling sessions were generally poor, future research should include more detailed description of these sessions and link their content to risk perception outcomes to allow interpretation of the results. Finally, the effect of genetic counseling should be examined for a wider variety of hereditary conditions. Genetic counselors should provide the necessary context in which counselees can understand risk information, use both verbal and numerical risk estimates to communicate personal risk information, and use visual aids when communicating numerical risk information.

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