Breast Cancer Risk Perception and Lifestyle Behaviors Among White and Black Women With a Family History of the Disease

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Although researchers have investigated the relationships between perceived risk and behavioral risk factors for breast cancer, few qualitative studies have addressed the meaning of risk and its impact on decision making regarding lifestyle behaviors. This qualitative study explored factors involved in the formulation of perceived breast cancer risk and associations between risk perception and lifestyle behaviors in white and black women with a family history of breast cancer. Eligible participants were North Carolina residents in the Sister Study, a nationwide study of risk factors for breast cancer among women who have at least 1 sister diagnosed with breast cancer. Personal interviews were conducted with 32 women. Although most had heightened perceived risk, almost 20% considered themselves below-to-average risk. Participants with moderate-to-high perceived risk were more likely to report an affected sister and mother, a first-degree relative's diagnosis within 4 years, and death of a first-degree relative from breast cancer. Many women were unaware of associations between lifestyle behaviors and breast cancer risk. Only one-third of the women reported healthy lifestyle changes because of family history; dietary change was most frequently reported. Findings may be important for cancer nurses involved in developing breast cancer education programs for women with a family history of breast cancer.

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