Do women in the community recognize hereditary and sporadic breast cancer risk factors?

PURPOSE/OBJECTIVES: To describe knowledge of hereditary, familial, and sporadic breast cancer risk factors among women in the community and to identify characteristics associated with this knowledge.
DESIGN: Descriptive, cross-sectional.
SETTING: Community settings in the San Francisco Bay Area.
SAMPLE: 184 women who had never been diagnosed with cancer, were 30-85 years old (mean = 47 + 12), and agreed to complete a questionnaire in English. Participants were from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds (i.e., 43% European descent, 27% African descent, 16% Asian descent, and 14% Hispanic descent). Many (49%) were college graduates, and 24% had a median annual family income of $30,000-$50,000.
METHODS: Survey.
MAIN RESEARCH VARIABLES: Knowledge of hereditary, familial, and sporadic breast cancer risk factors and characteristics associated with this knowledge.
FINDINGS: Although most women recognized heredity as a risk factor, some did not understand the impact of paternal family history on risk. Some women did not recognize the relationship between breast and ovarian cancer, risk factors associated with the Gail model, and that aging increases risk. Education level was the most important characteristic associated with knowledge of risk factors.
CONCLUSIONS: Although age and family history are independent predictors of sporadic, hereditary, and familial breast cancer risk, women in the community could not distinguish between the three forms of the disease. Although the sample included a large number of educated women, their knowledge of breast cancer risk factors appeared incomplete.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING: Advanced practice nurses should provide individualized risk assessment and education regarding breast cancer risk factors.