This study sought to examine changes in psychological distress following cancer genetic counselling. Women attending a family cancer clinic completed questionnaires before their appointment and at 2 weeks, 6 months and 12 months after their appointment. Twenty-six women were at low risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, 76 were at moderate risk, 46 were at high risk and 46 women had previously had breast or ovarian cancer. All groups were compared with regard to measures of anxiety, depression, general psychological distress, worry about developing breast and ovarian cancer, and perceived risk of developing breast/ovarian cancer and perceived likelihood of carrying a genetic mutation. General psychological distress did not change over the course of the study and the groups did not differ on these measures. Worry about developing breast cancer and perceptions of the likelihood of carrying a genetic mutation significantly reduced following genetic counselling. On the whole women who had already had breast/ovarian cancer showed more concerns about ovarian cancer and raised perceptions of risk in comparison with the other groups, indicating the need for sensitive counselling of such women.