What characterizes cancer family history collection tools? A critical literature review

Curr Oncol. 2018 Aug;25(4):e335-e350. doi: 10.3747/co.25.4042. Epub 2018 Aug 14.


Background: Many tools have been developed for the standardized collection of cancer family history (fh). However, it remains unclear which tools have the potential to help health professionals overcome traditional barriers to collecting such histories. In this review, we describe the characteristics, validation process, and performance of existing tools and appraise the extent to which those tools can support health professionals in identifying and managing at-risk individuals.

Methods: Studies were identified through searches of the medline, embase, and Cochrane central databases from October 2015 to September 2016. Articles were included if they described a cancer fh collection tool, its use, and its validation process.

Results: Based on seventy-nine articles published between February 1978 and September 2016, 62 tools were identified. Most of the tools were paper-based and designed to be self-administered by lay individuals. One quarter of the tools could automatically produce pedigrees, provide cancer-risk assessment, and deliver evidence-based recommendations. One third of the tools were validated against a standard reference for collected fh quality and cancer-risk assessment. Only 3 tools were integrated into an electronic health records system.

Conclusions: In the present review, we found no tool with characteristics that might make it an efficient clinical support for health care providers in cancer-risk identification and management. Adequately validated tools that are connected to electronic health records are needed to encourage the systematic identification of individuals at increased risk of cancer.

Keywords: Family history; collection tools; hereditary cancers; risk assessment; screening; tools validation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking / methods*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Risk Assessment