Familial Cancer

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 597–603 | Cite as

All in the family? Communication of cancer survivors with their families

  • Deborah J. BowenEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Hay
  • Julie N. Harris-Wai
  • Hendrika Meischke
  • Wylie Burke
Original Article


Families often bear the burden of communication about cancer risk, as well as support during and after treatment for cancer in family members. These activities are left up to survivors and their families, with little support or knowledge of useful methods. We present data on aspects of family that are most relevant to risk of cancer-related communication and health promotion among family members. Families (a survivor, one first-degree relative and one parent; n = 313 families) were enrolled in the survey-based study. We assessed multiple aspects of family communication about risk for melanoma among family participants. Families communicate less frequently than desired about cancer risk. Most families do identify a “family health provider” who keeps family data and serves a resource for family members. The reasons given for lack of family communication are diverse but many can be addressed as part of a family communication intervention. Families are poised to improve their family communication about cancer risk and so can play a role in increasing the health of their members.


Melanoma Prevention Family communication 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Cancer Institute (CA107430) National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health (P50 HG003374). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the authorsʼ affiliated institutions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah J. Bowen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer L. Hay
    • 2
  • Julie N. Harris-Wai
    • 3
  • Hendrika Meischke
    • 4
  • Wylie Burke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Bioethics and HumanitiesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health ServicesUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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