As the importance of cancer prevention and control grows in recognition, cancer risk counseling services are becoming a standard component of primary health care. Individuals are becoming increasingly aware of the role of their family history in their own personal cancer risk. The growing sophistication in the process of risk identification, including the use of genetic tests for cancer susceptibility genes, is stimulating research to develop risk modification and cancer prevention strategies. Several registries of high-risk families are being assembled to provide prospective data on the epidemiology and natural history of familial cancers and the effectiveness of a variety of cancer control interventions. Optimal screening protocols for members of high-risk families are being developed and evaluated. Long-term follow-up of mutation carriers will help to define the spectrum of cancer risk, the clinical course of hereditary cancer, and response to treatment. Central to these research efforts are ongoing studies of the short- and long-term effects of cancer risk counseling on health behaviors and quality of life. Coincidental with this are the many new educational initiatives to prepare healthcare professionals to become part of the cancer risk counseling team.

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