Purpose: To determine the specific components of family history and personal characteristics related to disease perceptions about breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. Methods: Baseline, cross-sectional data on 2,505 healthy women aged 35-65 years enrolled from 41 primary care practices in the cluster-randomized Family Healthware™ Impact Trial, assessed for detailed family history and perceived risk, perceived severity, worry, and perceived control over getting six common diseases including breast, colon, and ovarian cancers. Results: Participants provided family history information on 41,841 total relatives. We found evidence of underreporting of paternal family history and lower perceived breast cancer risk with cancer in the paternal versus maternal lineage. We observed cancer-specific perceived risks and worry for individual family history elements and also found novel "spillover" effects where a family history of one cancer was associated with altered disease perceptions of another. Having a mother with early-onset breast or ovarian cancer was strongly associated with perceived risk of breast cancer. Age, parenthood, and affected lineage were associated with disease perceptions and ran counter to empiric risks. Conclusions: Understanding patients'formulation of risk for multiple diseases is important for public health initiatives that seek to inform risk appraisal, influence disease perceptions, or match preventive interventions to existing risk perceptions.
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