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Br J Cancer. 2009 Feb 24;100(4):583-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6604910. Epub 2009 Feb 10.

Measuring, and identifying predictors of women's perceptions of three types of breast cancer risk: population risk, absolute risk and comparative risk.

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Department of Public Health, Centre for Molecular, Environmental, Genetic and Analytic Epidemiology, Level 1, 723 Swanston Street, Carlton, VICTORIA, 3053, Australia.


Although a key function of cancer genetics services is to provide risk information, to date there has been little consistency in the way in which breast cancer risk perception has been measured. The aims of the study were to measure estimates of (i) population risk, (ii) absolute risk and (iii) comparative risk of developing breast cancer for Ashkenazi Jewish women, and to determine predictors of breast cancer risk perception. Of 152 women, 107 (70%) completed all questions. The mean (s.d.) estimates for population risk, absolute risk and comparative risk were 22.7% (15.9), 31.8% (20.6) and 1.9-fold (1.9), respectively. Most women overestimated population risk. Women at population risk generally overestimated the population risk and their own absolute risk, yet understood they are at the same risk as the population. Those with a family history understood that they are at increased risk, but underestimated the extent to which their familial risk is increased. Anxiety, high estimation of population risk and lesser family history predicted overestimation of absolute risk, whereas high estimation of population risk and a strong family history predicted underestimation of comparative risk.

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