Interest in learning of personal genetic risk for cancer: a general population survey

Prev Med. Sep-Oct 1996;25(5):527-36. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1996.0086.


Background: Previous studies have reported high interest in genetic testing for risk for colon or breast-ovarian cancer. These studies, however, have used samples which might be atypical with regard to level of interest evident among the general U.S. population.

Methods: As part of an annual statewide telephone health survey, adults' (n = 649) interest in learning about their personal genetic predisposition for cancer was assessed.

Results: High levels of interest in learning about a personal genetic predisposition for cancer in general (87%) and breast cancer in particular (93%) were expressed. Logistic regression analysis indicated that lack of interest was associated with less education, minority status, and less performance of other health-protective behaviors. Only 53% of respondents reported their understanding of genetics was "good" or "excellent."

Conclusion: While interest in learning of one's personal genetic predisposition for cancer was high, many individuals requesting testing may have a less than good understanding of genetics and the implications of test results. Furthermore, variables associated with lack of interest in learning about personal genetic risk for cancer in this study were similar to those which have been previously found to be associated with poor utilization of other cancer control activities such as breast or cervical cancer screening.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Risk
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies