Researchers identified demographic subgroups of patients whose cancer family history information (FHI) may be unavailable or incomplete. These findings were recently reported in JAMA Network Open.

The researchers evaluated disparities in FHI in electronic health records (EHRs) from 2 US health care systems — the University of Utah Health (UHealth) and New York University Langone Health (NYULH).

The researchers included patients who were 25 to 60 years of age and who had any primary care appointments within these systems during the prior 3 years. Availability and comprehensiveness of FHI in patient EHRs were the primary metrics evaluated.

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Evidence of collection of any FHI, well as family cancer history, was the primary information the researchers used to define availability at the patient level. Comprehensiveness was evaluated based on whether cancer FHI included details about a family member’s cancer type, the relationship to the patient, and the age at diagnosis. The researchers evaluated FHI details across categories of sex, race, ethnicity, and language preference.

The analysis included EHRs for 144,484 patients in the UHealth system and 377,621 patients in the NYULH system. Among patients in both systems, there appeared to be significant differences in the availability of any FHI and cancer FHI across multiple patient subgroups.

Cancer FHI availability was highest for White patients in both systems. In the UHealth system, cancer FHI availability was lowest for Black patients. In the NYULH system, it was lowest for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander patients.

In both systems, Hispanic or Latino patients were less likely than non-Hispanic/Latino patients to have available cancer FHI, and Spanish-speaking patients were less likely than English-speaking patients to have available cancer FHI.

Men were less likely to have available cancer FHI than women. Cancer FHI comprehensiveness also differed across the subgroups.

These findings suggest there are important differences in family cancer history availability and comprehensiveness by sex, race, ethnicity, and language preference, the researchers concluded.

“Such differences may exacerbate disparities in the identification of patients who require specialty services or tailored disease screening recommendations,” the researchers wrote. “Efforts are particularly needed to improve availability and comprehensiveness of FHI for Black, Hispanic or Latino, Spanish-speaking, and male patients to mitigate the risk of health inequalities associated with these digital innovations.”


Chavez-Yenter D, Goodman MS, Chen Y, et al. Association of disparities in family history and family cancer history in the electronic health record with sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and language preference in 2 large US health care systems. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(10):e2234574. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.34574

This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor