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Consideration of family history of cancer in medical routine: a survey in the primary care setting in Germany

Fiederling, Jonasa; Ulrich, Cornelia M.b; Hemminki, Karic; Haug, Ulrikea

European Journal of Cancer Prevention: May 2014 - Volume 23 - Issue 3 - p 199–205
doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0b013e328364743d
Research Papers: Family History

Family history of cancer (FHC) is important in the context of cancer prevention and risk counselling, but there is a lack of information about its consideration in medical routine. We aimed to characterize how FHC is assessed and taken into account in the primary care setting in Germany. We conducted a mail survey among 285 office-based physicians in south-west Germany. We sent a questionnaire to randomly selected general practitioners, dermatologists, gastroenterologists, gynaecologists, urologists and pulmonologists, asking about collection of information on FHC and implications for preventive counselling. A total of 207 physicians returned the questionnaire (response rate 73%), of whom 71% reported asking for FHC routinely, 17% reported using a standardized tool to collect the information and 35% reported regularly updating it. Implications of a positive FHC for counselling were heterogeneous, with priority on recommendations for screening. Referral to genetic counselling was considered by 34% of physicians, mainly gastroenterologists and gynaecologists. In the primary care setting in Germany, FHC is considered an important topic, but there is a lack of standardization in collecting the information and heterogeneity on the implications for counselling. Options to improve this situation, such as the implementation of standardized tools or centralized counselling systems, are needed.

aCancer Registry Baden-Württemberg, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)

bDivision of Preventive Oncology, National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT)/German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)

cDivision of Molecular Genetic Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany

Correspondence to Ulrike Haug, PhD, Cancer Registry Baden-Württemberg (M110), German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 581, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany Tel: +49 6221 42 4220; fax: +49 6221 42 2397; e-mail:

Received March 18, 2013

Accepted June 19, 2013

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.