The role of family history in personal prevention practices among US women physicians

Mona Saraiya, Steven S. Coughlin, Wylie Burke, Lisa K. Elon, Erica Frank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objective: To document the role of physicians' family history of cancer in terms of personal use of cancer preventive services and in recommending that patients receive such services. Methods: We examined the Women Physicians' Health Study, a questionnaire-based study of a representative sample of 4,501 female physicians in the United States. Results: Among the physicians surveyed, 38.9% (95% confidence interval 37.1-40.7) reported a family history of cancer. A physician's self-reported family history of a specific cancer was positively associated with the physician having had a more recent screening exam for that cancer. Family history of any cancer was positively associated with older age, white race, recent sigmoidoscopy, recent mammogram, digital rectal exam, a blood stool test, history of cigarette smoking and history of recent alcohol use. Physicians' family histories did not significantly influence the reported frequency of recommendations of screening services for their patients. Conclusions: The observed association between a positive physician family history and personal cancer prevention practices suggests that physicians are receptive to the concept of a positive family history of cancer as a risk factor for cancer. This could present an educational opportunity for physicians to emphasize the importance of cancer family history in patients, particularly with respect to underutilized services such as screening for colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-108
Number of pages7
JournalCommunity Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer prevention practices
  • Family history
  • Women physicians

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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