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This study explored the emotional and coping responses of women referred for cancer genetic risk assessment and the acceptability of a written distraction-based coping intervention. Fifteen women recently referred into the Cancer Genetics Service for Wales (CGSW) took part in a focus group study. The women were divided into two groups, each of which met twice. During the first session, each group discussed their psychological responses to the referral and how they coped with their worries. Women discussed the potential role of the intervention in minimising distress. Analysis of the transcripts revealed that most women welcomed the referral to CGSW and that it did not create distress. However, there was concern for family members and anxiety about subsequent stages of the assessment process. The intervention was considered appropriate and potentially effective. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.