Cochrane for Clinicians

Putting Evidence into Practice

The Impact of Personalized Risk Communication on Screening Decisions

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Am Fam Physician. 2014 Feb 1;89(3):175-176.

This clinical content conforms to AAFP criteria for continuing medical education (CME). See CME Quiz Questions.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.

Clinical Question

What is the impact of personalized risk communication on patient decision making about screening tests?

Evidence-Based Answer

Patients presented with personalized risk information are more likely to make informed decisions about screening than patients who are presented with generic risk information. Individualizing risk appears to improve the accuracy of patients' risk perception and decrease anxiety.

Practice Pointers

Screening tests are not appropriate for every patient. Instead, individual risk and personal values play a role in determining whether a given patient should undergo screening for a disease. Many guidelines recommend that physicians have a discussion with patients when determining whether to perform a specific screening test, and many guidelines use individual risk as a differentiator for recommendations. For instance, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that physicians discuss a patient's risks and values before making a decision about screening for breast cancer.1 Ideal risk communication

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. government, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

The practice recommendations in this activity are available at


Edwards AG, Naik G, Ahmed H, et al. Personalised risk communication for informed decision making about taking screening tests. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;(2):CD001865.


1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for breast cancer. Accessed May 22, 2013.

2. Marteau TM, Dormandy E, Michie S. A measure of informed choice. Health Expect. 2001;4(2):99–108.

3. Hutchison B, Birch S, Evans CE, et al. Screening for hypercholesterolaemia in primary care: randomised controlled trial of postal questionnaire appraising risk of coronary heart disease. BMJ. 1998;316(7139):1208–1213.

These are summaries of reviews from the Cochrane Library.

The series coordinator for AFP is Corey D. Fogleman, MD, Lancaster General Hospital Family Medicine Residency, Lancaster, Pa.

A collection of Cochrane for Clinicians published in AFP is available at

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