Computer-based program provides personal colon cancer risk data

NEW YORK-A computer-based program can help people understand their estimated risk for colorectal cancer (CRC), according to an article in the April issue of Journal of Health Communication, co-authored by Neil D. Weinstein, Ph.D., professor in the department of human ecology at Rutgers University and associate investigator at the Arizona Cancer Center.

"Our program helped individuals better understand their true risk for colorectal cancer," said Dr. Weinstein. "Since the program was computer-based, it also helped them to see how lifestyle changes could lower their long-term risk of this cancer. This is a promising approach that let's us do things that you can't be done with pamphlets and posters." Dr. Weinstein spoke today at an American Medical Association media briefing on patient communication and adherence in New York City.

Little is known about how to best to communicate about treatment that involves multiple risk factors. "The use of hormone replacement therapy, for example, has a number of different risks and a number of different benefits," Dr. Weinstein explained. "It's a complicated process to combine these risks and benefits and make a meaningful decision." Information about probable risk can be confusing to many patients.

The Harvard Colorectal Cancer Risk Assessment and Communication Tool for Research (HCCRACT-R) was developed as a tool by Dr. Weinstein and colleagues to study various risk communication strategies. It is an interactive computer-based tool used to provide individuals with estimated personal risk for colorectal cancer based on the individual patient's risk profile. The program takes into account risk factors that are not modifiable such as family history and also includes factors that can be modified such as changing physical activity and diet or getting more frequent screenings to find polyps before they become cancerous to reduce risk.

"There are risk factors that are unchangeable and one's t

Contact: Michele Hujber
American Medical Association

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