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Health Psychol. 2009 May;28(3):307-16. doi: 10.1037/a0013947.

Impact of genetic risk information and type of disease on perceived risk, anticipated affect, and expected consequences of genetic tests.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The University of Auckland, New Zealand. l.cameron@auckland.ac.nz



Genetic tests vary in their prediction of disease occurrence, with some mutations conferring relatively low risk and others indicating near certainty. The authors assessed how increments in absolute risk of disease influence risk perceptions, interest, and expected consequences of genetic tests for diseases of varying severity.


Adults (N = 752), recruited from New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom for an online analogue study, were randomly assigned to receive information about a test of genetic risk for diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, or lung cancer. The lifetime risk varied across conditions by 10% increments, from 20% to 100%.


Participants completed measures of perceived likelihood of disease for individuals with mutations, risk-related affect, interest, and testing consequences.


Analyses revealed two increment clusters yielding differences in likelihood perceptions: A "moderate-risk" cluster (20%-70%), and a "high-risk" cluster (80%-100%). Risk increment influenced anticipated worry, feelings of risk, testing-induced distress, and family obligations, with nonlinear patterns including disproportionately high responses for the 50% increment. Risk increment did not alter testing interest or perceived benefits. These patterns of effects held across the four diseases.


Magnitude of risk from genetic testing has a nonlinear influence on risk-related appraisals and affect but is unrelated to test interest.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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