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Personalized risk info helps with screening decision

Personalized risk info helps with screening decision

People make more educated decisions about screening tests when they’re given a personalized assessment of their own risk, rather than one-size-fits-all information, according to a new review of past studies.

Those personalized evaluations take into account factors such as age, race, gender, weight, lifestyle and family history to determine an individual’s chances of developing a certain type of cancer, for example.

The new review paper, published in the Cochrane Library, also covered decisions by parents-to-be about whether to undergo genetic screening for their fetus.

“Knowing your individual risk for a particular health problem may help you make an informed choice about what screening services you might be interested in,” said Dr. Michael LeFevre, co-vice chair of the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

The USPSTF makes recommendations for disease prevention, which are typically gender- and age-specific. But the evidence isn’t always there to make guidelines more personalized than that, he said.

“Over time, what would be ideal is that we’re able to make more specific, individualized recommendations and fewer population recommendations,” added LeFevre, who is also a family doctor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine in Columbia and wasn’t involved in the new review.

For their analysis, researchers looked at 41 studies, including almost 29,000 people, which compared some form of personalized risk assessment with a standard message about the effects of a given screening test.