, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 513-521
Date: 10 Dec 2009

Health and lifestyle behaviors among persons at risk of Lynch syndrome

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The aim of this study was to evaluate health behaviors among patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) and their at-risk relatives prior to undergoing genetic counseling and testing for Lynch syndrome and to examine associations between health risk behaviors and specific demographic and psychological variables.


Participants included patients with CRC (n = 319) and their cancer-unaffected relatives (n = 110) who were enrolled in studies regarding Lynch syndrome genetic testing. Prior to undergoing genetic counseling or testing, participants completed a questionnaire including measures of demographic characteristics, health behaviors, cancer screening practices (Pap test, clinical breast exam, and mammogram), and psychological distress.


Unaffected participants scored higher on a risk behavior index (RBI) than patients with CRC (1.7 (SD = 1.0) vs. 1.4 (SD = .09); p < .01). All female participants underwent cancer screening at rates similar to national data. Higher RBI scores were associated with being male, having less education, and age less than 50-years.


We identified several health behaviors for potential intervention, including smoking, alcohol use, and diet. Genetic counseling offers a promising avenue for education and risk behavior reduction in persons at increased risk for cancer due to a familial or genetic predisposition, and a teachable moment to introduce lifestyle modifications.