We examined what proportion of the U.S. population with no personal cancer history reported receiving either genetic counseling or genetic testing for cancer risk, and also the association of these behaviors with cancer risk perceptions.
We used data from the 2015 National Health Interview Survey. Objective relative risk scores for breast (women) and colorectal (men and women) cancer risk were generated for individuals without a personal history of cancer. Participants' risk perceptions were compared with their objective relative risk.
Of 12,631 women, 1.2% reported receiving genetic counseling and 0.8% genetic testing for hereditary breast cancer risk. Of 15,085 men and women, 0.8% reported receiving genetic counseling and 0.3% genetic testing for hereditary colorectal cancer risk. Higher breast cancer risk perception was associated with genetic counseling (OR: 4.31, 95%CI: 2.56, 7.26) and testing (OR: 3.56, 95%CI: 1.80, 7.03). Similarly, higher perception of colorectal cancer risk was associated with genetic counseling (OR: 5.04, 95%CI: 2.57, 9.89) and testing (OR: 5.92, 95%CI: 2.40, 14.63). A higher proportion of individuals with colorectal cancer risk perceptions concordant with their objective risk (vs. discordant) had undergone genetic counseling or testing for colorectal cancer risk. Concordant risk perceptions for breast cancer were not associated with breast cancer genetic counseling or testing.
Given frequent dialogue about implementing population level programs involving genetic services for cancer risk, policy makers and investigators should consider the role of risk perceptions in the effectiveness and design of such programs and potential strategies for addressing inaccuracies in risk perceptions.