Selection of family members for communication of cancer risk and barriers to this communication before and after genetic cancer risk assessment

Genet Med. 2007 May;9(5):275-82. doi: 10.1097/gim.0b013e31804ec075.


Purpose: The impact of genetic cancer risk assessment on communication of cancer risk information within families is not fully known. We compared women's selection of family members for cancer risk communication and perceived barriers to this communication before genetic cancer risk assessment and 6 months afterward.

Methods: Mailed surveys were used to collect prospective data from consenting women undergoing genetic cancer risk assessment because of a personal and/or family history of breast or ovarian cancers. Analysis included descriptive statistics, chi-square and McNemar tests, and paired t tests.

Results: A total of 122 women met the study criteria. Although risk communications increased with first-degree relatives (84%-90% for females; 53%-62% for males) and decreased with non-first-degree relatives (21%-9%) before and after genetic cancer risk assessment, the degree of change was nonsignificant. The most commonly cited communication barrier was loss of contact (30%). Demographics, personal or family cancer history, and BRCA status did not significantly influence findings.

Conclusions: There was a high degree of cancer risk communications with female first-degree relatives, but less so with male first-degree relatives, both before and after genetic cancer risk assessment. For the majority of women, interpersonal barriers did not preclude risk discussions. Further research is needed to identify how best to facilitate risk communication.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Communication Barriers*
  • Disclosure*
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Genetic Testing / psychology*
  • Genetic Testing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires