Background: This article evaluates the accuracy of family history of breast and ovarian cancer among first-degree relatives of breast cancer patients, retrospectively collected during the setting up of a population-based family breast cancer registry.
Patients and methods: Family histories of cancer for all women with breast cancer recorded at the Geneva Cancer Registry from 1990 to 1999 were retrospectively extracted from medical files. The accuracy of these family histories was validated among Swiss women born in Geneva: all 119 with a family history of breast (n = 110) or ovarian (n = 9) cancer and a representative sample of 100 women with no family history of breast or ovarian cancer. We identified the first-degree relatives of these women with information from the Cantonal Population Office. All first-degree relatives, resident in Geneva from 1970 to 1999, were linked to the cancer registry database for breast and ovarian cancer occurrence. Sensitivity, specificity and level of overall agreement (kappa) were calculated.
Results: Among 310 first-degree relatives identified, 61 had breast cancer and six had ovarian cancer recorded at the Geneva Cancer Registry. The sensitivity, specificity and kappa of the reported family histories of breast cancer were 98%, 97% and 0.97, respectively. For ovarian cancer, the sensitivity, specificity and kappa were 67%, 99%, and 0.66, respectively.
Conclusions: This study indicates that retrospectively obtained family histories are very accurate for breast cancer. For ovarian cancer, family histories are less precise and may need additional verification.