Health behaviors and their relationship with disease control in people attending genetic clinics with a family history of breast or colorectal cancer

Annie Anderson (Lead / Corresponding author), Stephen Caswell, Maureen Macleod, Robert Steele, Jonathan Berg, Jacqueline Dunlop, Martine Stead, Douglas Eadie, Ronan E. O'Carroll

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The current work aimed to assess health behaviors, perceived risk and control over breast/colorectal cancer risk and views on lifestyle advice amongst attendees at cancer family history clinics. Participants attending the East of Scotland Genetics Service were invited to complete a questionnaire (demographic data, weight and height, health behaviors and psycho-social measures of risk and perceived control) and to participate in an in-depth interview. The questionnaire was completed by 237 (49%) of attendees, ranging from 18 to 77 years (mean age 46 (+10) years). Reported smoking rates (11%) were modest, most (54%) had a BMI>25kg/m2, 55% had low levels of physical activity, 58% reported inappropriate alcohol intakes and 90% had fiber intakes indicative of a low plant diet. Regression analysis indicated that belief in health professional control was associated with higher, and belief in fatalism with poorer health behavior. Qualitative findings highlighted doubts about the link between lifestyle and cancer, and few were familiar with the current evidence. Whilst lifestyle advice was considered interesting in general there was little appetite for non-tailored guidance. In conclusion, current health behaviors are incongruent with cancer risk reduction guidance amongst patients who have actively sought advice on disease risk. There are some indications that lifestyle advice would be welcomed but endorsement requires a sensitive and flexible approach, and the acceptability of lifestyle interventions remains to be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-51
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number1
Early online date17 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017



  • Genetic
  • Cancer
  • Diet
  • Activity
  • Overweight
  • Fatalism
  • Control
  • Lifestyle

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