Views on provision of personalised cancer risk information: a qualitative interview study with members of the public


Session type:

Juliet Usher-Smith1,Barbora Silarova1,Artitaya Lophatananon2,Robbie Duschinsky1,Jackie Campbell3,Joanne Warcaba4,Kenneth Muir2
1University of Cambridge,2University of Manchester,3University of Northampton,4Moulton Surgery



It is estimated that nearly 600,000 cancer cases in the UK could have been avoided in the past five years if people had healthier lifestyles. A number of theories of behaviour change suggest that before people will change health behaviours, they must accept that a risk applies to them.  This study aimed to explore the views of members of the public on receiving personalised cancer risk information.


We conducted 27 interviews with members of the public. Each participant completed a questionnaire to allow calculation of their risk of developing the most common cancers (10 for women, 8 for men). During the interviews we presented their risk using a web-based tool developed for the study and discussions covered their views on receiving that information.  Each interview was audio-recorded and then analysed using thematic analysis.


Participants generally viewed the concept of personalised cancer risk positively and were keen that it be provided more widely. When presented with their 10-year absolute risk of an individual cancer on a grey scale almost all felt that it was low and not concerning. Views on what constituted a high risk ranged widely, from 0.5 to 60%. When presented in colour, the colour was often more important than the number and dominated their interpretation.  All felt seeing the impact of changes in lifestyle on their risk was powerful. For some this led to intentions to change behaviour, but reductions in risk were not always motivating as the risks were considered low and differences small.  


Provision of personalised cancer risk information was well received and may be a useful adjunct to other cancer prevention initiatives. Further work is needed in particular to address the disparity between typical risk estimates and the general perception of what constitutes a risk high enough to motivate behaviour change.