Harvard report on cancer prevention volume 4: Harvard Cancer Risk Index. Risk Index Working Group, Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention

Cancer Causes Control. 2000 Jul;11(6):477-88. doi: 10.1023/a:1008984432272.


Objective: Prediction of cancer risk is a minor component of current health risk appraisals. Perception of individual cancer risk is poor. A Cancer Risk Index was developed to predict individual cancer risk for cancers accounting for 80% of the cancer burden in the United States.

Methods: We used group consensus among researchers at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health to identify risk factors as definite, probable and possible causes of cancer. Risk points were allocated according to the strength of the causal association and summed. Population average risk of cancer and cumulative 10-year risk was obtained from SEER data. Individual ranking relative to the population average was determined. The risk index was evaluated for validity using colon cancer incidence in prospective cohort data.

Results: The Harvard Cancer Risk Index provides a broad classification of cancer risk. Validation against cohort data shows good agreement for colon cancer.

Conclusion: The Harvard Cancer Risk Index offers a simple estimation of personal risk of cancer. It may help inform users of the major risk factors for cancer and identify changes in lifestyle that will reduce their risk. It offers the potential for tailored health-promotion messages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • SEER Program
  • United States / epidemiology