Genetic cancer risk assessment

Putting it all together

Authors

  • Jeffrey N. Weitzel M.D.

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Clinical Cancer Genetics, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, California
    • Department of Clinical Cancer Genetics, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1500 East Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010
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    • Dr. Weitzel is Director, Department of Clinical Cancer Genetics and Cancer Screening & Prevention Program.


Abstract

Dramatic advances in our understanding of the genetic basis for cancer have led to the development of new technologies and tools for genetic cancer risk assessment. Yet, cancer is a complex disorder, and risk assessment, counseling, and management strategies need to consider several important domains: state of cancer genetics knowledge, state of mind (previous cancer experience within the family), state of technology, and state of the art in terms of management. There are several barriers to the efficient identification and counseling of patients and families at high risk for cancer because of inherited susceptibility mutations. Chief among these concerns is the lack of access to competent counseling and education services that are equipped to handle the complex and rapidly evolving medical, technological, and ethical issues. Cancer risk assessment is developing into a distinct discipline in which established empiric risk models are recast along with rapidly evolving genetic technologies for estimation of individual cancer risk. Cancer genetics consultants are an important resource for primary care physicians, gynecologists, surgeons, and oncologists. However, no formal qualification criteria exist for either physicians or allied health care professionals who subspecialize in this new field. This article covers the unique domains of cancer genetics in health care and surveys models for delivery of cancer genetics services and tools for risk assessment. Coupled with innovative cancer diagnostic and preventive services and research, we have the potential to make great strides in cancer prevention and control. Cancer 1999;86:2483–92. © 1999 American Cancer Society.

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