Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 75–80

Race and family history assessment for breast cancer

  • Harvey J. Murff
  • Daniel Byrne
  • Jennifer S. Haas
  • Ann Louise Puopolo
  • Troyen A. Brennan
Populations At Risk


OBJECTIVE: Studies have demonstrated disparities in breast cancer screening between racial and ethnic groups. Knowledge of a woman’s family history of breast cancer is important for initiating early screening interventions. The purpose of this study was to determine whether differences exist in the collection of family history information based on patient race.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional patient telephone interview and medical record review.

SETTING: Eleven primary care practices in the Greater Boston area, all associated with Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals.

PARTICIPANTS: One thousand seven hundred fifty-nine women without a prior history of breast cancer who had been seen at least once by their primary care provider during the prior year.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Data were collected on patients regarding self-reported race, family breast cancer history information, and breast cancer screening interventions. Twenty-six percent (462/1,759) of the sample had documentation within their medical record of a family history for breast cancer. On multivariate analysis. after adjusting for patient age, education, number of continuous years in the provider’s practice, language, and presentation with a breast complaint, white women were more likely to be asked about a breast cancer family history when compared to nonwhite women (odds ratio, 1.68; 95% confidence interval, 1.21 to 2.35).

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of women seen by primary care providers do not have documentation of a family breast cancer history assessment within their medical record. White women were more likely to have family breast cancer information documented than nonwhites.

Key Words

breast neoplasm family history medical interviewing racial disparities communication 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harvey J. Murff
    • 5
    • 1
  • Daniel Byrne
    • 5
    • 1
  • Jennifer S. Haas
    • 2
  • Ann Louise Puopolo
    • 2
  • Troyen A. Brennan
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Veterans AffairsTennessee Valley Healthcare SystemNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Division of General Internal MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy and ManagementHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  5. 5.Division of General Internal MedicineVanderbilt University Medical Center and Department of Veterans Affairs, TVH, GRECC UnitNashville

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