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BMC Fam Pract. 2012 Mar 14;13:17. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-13-17.

Colorectal cancer risk assessment and screening recommendation: a community survey of healthcare providers' practice from a patient perspective.

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  • 1The Priority Research Centre for Health Behaviour, School of Medicine and Public Health, Faculty of Health, The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia. ryan.courtney@newcastle.edu.au



Family history is a common risk factor for colorectal cancer (CRC), yet it is often underused to guide risk assessment and the provision of risk-appropriate CRC screening recommendation. The aim of this study was to identify from a patient perspective health care providers' current practice relating to: (i) assessment of family history of CRC; (ii) notification of "increased risk" to patients at "moderately/potentially high" familial risk; and (iii) recommendation that patients undertake CRC screening.


1592 persons aged 56-88 years randomly selected from the Hunter Community Study (HCS), New South Wales, Australia were mailed a questionnaire. 1117 participants (70%) returned a questionnaire.


Thirty eight percent of respondents reported ever being asked about their family history of CRC. Ever discussing family history of CRC with a health care provider was significantly more likely to occur for persons with a higher level of education, who had ever received screening advice and with a lower physical component summary score. Fifty one percent of persons at "moderately/potentially high risk" were notified of their "increased risk" of developing CRC. Thirty one percent of persons across each level of risk had ever received CRC screening advice from a health care provider. Screening advice provision was significantly more likely to occur for persons who had ever discussed their family history of CRC with a health care provider and who were at "moderately/potentially high risk".


Effective interventions that integrate both the assessment and notification of familial risk of CRC to the wider population are needed. Systematic and cost-effective mechanisms that facilitate family history collection, risk assessment and provision of screening advice within the primary health care setting are required.

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