Assessing individual risk for breast cancer: risky business

J Clin Epidemiol. 1997 May;50(5):547-56. doi: 10.1016/s0895-4356(97)00013-9.


There is increasing demand for prediction of individual women's risk for breast cancer from women, clinicians, researchers, and health planners. Risk assessment for breast cancer is the process of identifying characteristics of an individual woman that are relevant to her risk, and combining those characteristics into a quantitative or qualitative risk profile. This article reviews and compares available methods of predicting risk, discusses benefits and drawbacks to the methods, and compares risk estimates for several hypothetical subjects using the different methods. Current and future uses for risk assessment are described. Risk assessment, while a promising tool for research now, and for clinical areas in the future, is still too imprecise for accurate prediction of breast cancer occurrence in individuals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Reproduction*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors