A new study reveals that one in five women do not believe their risk of acquiring breast cancer.
The new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found that most of the women who didn't believe their risk numbers said they did not feel it took into account their family history of cancer or their personal health habits.
Senior study author Angela Fagerlin, Ph.D., associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Center for Clinical Management Research, said that if people don't believe their risk numbers, it does not allow them to make informed medical decisions.
She said that women who believe their risk is not high might skip chemoprevention strategies that could significantly reduce their risk.
Fagerlin asserted that women who think their risk should be higher could potentially undergo treatments that might not be medically appropriate, which can have long-term ramifications
Some 690 women who were at above-average risk of developing breast cancer completed a web-based decision aid that included questions about age, ethnicity, personal history of breast cancer, and number of first-degree relatives who had had breast cancer.
The women then were told their five-year risk of developing breast cancer and given information about prevention strategies.
After receiving this information, the women were asked to recall their risk of breast cancer within the next five years. If they answered incorrectly, they were asked why: they forgot, made a rounding error or disagreed with the number. The researchers found that 22 percent of women who misreported their risk said they disagreed with the numbers.
The most common reason women said they disagreed with their risk was that their family history made them either more or less likely to develop breast cancer.
Many believed that because an aunt or father had cancer, it increased their risk. Only first-degree female relatives-mother, sister, daughter - impact a person's breast cancer risk. Others felt a lack of family history meant their cancer risk should be very low.
33 percent of women cited a gut instinct that their risk numbers just seemed too high or too low.
The findings have been published in Patient Education and Counselling.