Genetics and ethics: The family history component of cancer genetic risk counseling

Lois J. Loescher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Family history is an important risk factor for inherited cancers. Obtaining a family history is therefore a key component of cancer genetic risk counseling (CGRC). Many oncology nurses do not have training in cancer genetic risk counseling. However, every nurse is capable of obtaining a basic family history. The family history can help in identifying patterns of cancer transmission in families. Nurses can then refer families with a strong history of cancer to nurse geneticists, genetic counselors, or others qualified to make a further assessment of risk. If those resources are unavailable locally, the Internet can be of assistance. This article summarizes genetic and clinical characteristics of inherited cancers, the significance of family history, interview approaches, questions to ask about personal and family history of cancer, what a pedigree is and how to draw one, what to do with family information including risk analysis and documentation, and available resources on the Internet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-102
Number of pages7
JournalCancer nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1999


  • Family history-taking
  • Genetic counseling
  • Genetics resources
  • Inherited cancer risk
  • Interviews
  • Pedigree

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)


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