Aim: In order to evaluate the characteristics and the evolution of cancer genetics activity in France, a survey was conducted at the national level during a period of 4 years from 1994 to 1997 through the French Cooperative Network, a multidisciplinary group formed to investigate inherited tumors.
Method: A questionnaire was sent to all the 29 French non-specialized cancer genetic clinics to evaluate activity during a period of 4 consecutive weeks each year from 1994 to 1997. Items concerning the cancer genetic clinics, the consultees and the types of consultation were explored.
Results: A total number of 801 consultees were seen during the period of analysis. Some prominent characteristics of patients attending cancer genetic clinics were found. The majority of these are women (88%), and the mean age of consultees is 48 years. Fifty five percent of consultees are affected with cancer, and breast (personal and/or family history) is the most frequent site involved (63%). A genetic predisposition is certain or likely in about 53% of cases and unlikely in only 13% of consultations. The majority of consultations are devoted to new families (71%). The mean duration of consultations is 50 minutes, but 40% have a duration of at least 1 hour. Variations of several parameters during the 4 years period were observed and analyzed. Finally, since duration of consultations (more or equal to 1 hour) and personal or family history of breast/ovarian cancer appeared as pivotal elements in our study and consequently may affect the organization of clinics and the structuring as well as the evolution of cancer genetic activity in France, we analyzed more precisely the factors significantly associated with these 2 elements.
Conclusion: Study compliance was fair (60% of centers) and these results give a good measure of cancer genetic activity in France. The variation of parameters from one year to another may reflect modifications in medical practice (medical orientation rather than research focus and content of cancer genetic clinics) and/or scientific breakthroughs in cancer genetics such as identification of genes predisposing to cancer.