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A preliminary validation of a family history assessment form to select women at risk for breast or ovarian cancer for referral to a genetics center


Corresponding author: Cathy Gilpin, MSc, Eastern Ontario Regional Genetics Program, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, 401 Smyth Rd, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L1, Canada. E-mail:


The medical community and general population have become aware that genetic testing is available to look for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. However, criteria for who should be referred for genetic counseling and possible subsequent testing have yet to be determined, and many genetics centers have been overwhelmed by the demand for service. We set out to develop a family history assessment tool (FHAT) that could be used by physicians to select individuals for genetic counseling. Arbitrarily, we chose individuals who would have an approximate doubling of their lifetime risk for breast or ovarian cancer. The FHAT was then applied to 184 unrelated families, with an index patient who had breast or ovarian cancer and who had accepted the offer of BRCA1/BRCA2 testing. Data were compiled to compare the number of individuals who would have been referred for genetic counseling and the number of mutation-positive individuals who would have been screened out from counseling using FHAT, the tables from Claus, and the BRCAPRO system. In this population, FHAT was effective in minimizing both the number of referrals and the likelihood of missing women who were later found to be mutation-positive.