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Genet Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;7(9):640-5.

Association between screening family medical history in general medical care and lower burden of cancer worry among women with a close family history of breast cancer.

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  • 1Brown Medical School, Providence, RI, USA.



Soliciting family medical history (FMH) is the initial step in the process of screening for heritable cancer risk in medical care. We investigate whether recent solicitation of FMH in general medical care is associated with cancer worry among a sample of women having a first-degree relative with a breast cancer diagnosis.


Surveys were mailed to women registered with the Cancer Genetics Network having a first-degree relative with a breast cancer diagnosis and a regular source of medical care. The independent measure consisted of two items for solicitation of FMH based on validated measures of clinical interactions with one's physician; the dependent measure was a novel measure of cancer worry based on validated patient-centered measure of distress; and the secondary measures were 6-point scales for perceived likelihood of developing breast cancer and perceived severity of breast cancer as a health outcome.


A total of 353 women responded and met eligibility criteria (76.4% minimum response rate). One fifth reported no cancer worry during the past 4 weeks. After adjustment for age, education, pedigree features, and clustering within families, recent FMH solicitation was associated with lower odds of cancer worry (odds ratio = 0.58; 95% confidence interval = 0.51-0.70). FMH solicitation was associated with lower perceptions of the severity of developing breast cancer but not with the perception of cancer likelihood.


Our data do not support the hypothesis that FMH solicitation in general medical practice causes cancer worry. In fact, we observed a protective association possibly explained by influences on perceptions of breast cancer severity. Prospective research among less select populations is necessary.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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