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ASHG: Family Cancer History Major Topic at Genetics Meeting

Last Updated: November 05, 2010.

Family history risk assessment may still be the gold standard for identifying people at risk for certain cancers, and clinician education may improve clinician use of family health history information, according to two studies among several concerning the application of family health history information being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, held from Nov. 2 to 6 in Washington, D.C.

FRIDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Family history risk assessment (FHRA) may still be the gold standard for identifying people at risk for certain cancers, and clinician education may improve clinician use of family health history information, according to two studies among several concerning the application of family health history information being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, held from Nov. 2 to 6 in Washington, D.C.

Charis Eng, M.D., and Brandie Leach, of the Cleveland Clinic, compared FHRA with a personal genomic screening test for breast, prostate, and colon cancer in 44 subjects. They found that both methods placed an average of 40 percent of the subjects into the same risk categories, but found little concordance between the two tests for the three cancer types. They concluded that, although the two types of tests could be complementary tools for assessing cancer risk, FHRA is still the gold standard.

Maren Scheuner, M.D., of the Department of Veterans Affairs of Greater Los Angeles, and colleagues surveyed eight primary care clinicians -- at the beginning of an educational program to improve familial risk assessment -- on their knowledge of and attitudes toward familial risk assessment, genetic testing, and referring patients for genetics counseling. At baseline, the median correct answer score was 55 percent. In the first five months of the educational program, 568 cancer family histories were completed and 47 patients received referrals for risk assessment and possible genetic testing.

"Topics relating to cancer FHRA and management of high-risk patients are relevant to primary care clinicians at the VA in Greater Los Angeles, yet there is a substantial need for education. In a short period, our educational interventions have improved cancer family history documentation and genetics referral. We will continue our evaluation over the next 12 months. If successful, our educational program may serve as a model program for risk assessment of hereditary cancer and other conditions," Scheuner and colleagues conclude.

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