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Prev Med. 2002 Nov;35(5):453-62.

Application of the protection motivation theory to genetic testing for breast cancer risk.

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Psychological Institute, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology, University of Freiburg, 79085, Freiburg, Germany.



Many women, even women at low risk, are interested in genetic testing for breast cancer risk. However, the test has little to offer for women at low to moderate risk. We applied the Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) to investigate predictors of women's motivation to obtain such a test.


Women at low to moderate risk (n = 330) were recruited through a physician network. They received an informational letter by mail and completed a telephone survey and a written baseline questionnaire.


Structural equation analyses with motivation to test as the outcome variable showed that the full model was not supported by the data. However, modifications to the model resulted in good model fit and explained 51% of the variance. Women with increased breast cancer worries, which were influenced by perceived risk, and women who saw more disadvantages of not getting tested showed more motivation to pursue testing. Women who saw more advantages of not getting tested showed less motivation.


Applying the PMT was helpful in determining factors that play a role in women's intentions to obtain genetic testing. Counseling should aim at decreasing perceived risk and breast cancer worries and include a discussion of the consequences of not getting tested.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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