A Systematic Review of the Impact of Genetic Counseling on Risk Perception Accuracy

  • Chris M. R. SmerecnikEmail author
  • Ilse Mesters
  • Eline Verweij
  • Nanne K. de Vries
  • Hein de Vries
Original Research


This review presents an overview of the impact of genetic counseling on risk perception accuracy in papers published between January 2000 and February 2007. The results suggest that genetic counseling may have a positive impact on risk perception accuracy, though some studies observed no impact at all, or only for low-risk participants. Several implications for future research can be deduced. First, future researchers should link risk perception changes to objective risk estimates, define risk perception accuracy as the correct counseled risk estimate, and report both the proportion of individuals who correctly estimate their risk and the average overestimation of the risk. Second, as the descriptions of the counseling sessions were generally poor, future research should include more detailed description of these sessions and link their content to risk perception outcomes to allow interpretation of the results. Finally, the effect of genetic counseling should be examined for a wider variety of hereditary conditions. Genetic counselors should provide the necessary context in which counselees can understand risk information, use both verbal and numerical risk estimates to communicate personal risk information, and use visual aids when communicating numerical risk information.


Genetic counseling Risk perception Systematic review 



This study was financially supported by Maastricht University and performed at the School for Public Health and Primary Care (Caphri). Caphri participates in the Netherlands School of Primary Care Research (CaRe), recognized by the Royal Dutch Academy of Science (KNAW) in 1995.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2009

Open AccessThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris M. R. Smerecnik
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ilse Mesters
    • 1
  • Eline Verweij
    • 1
  • Nanne K. de Vries
    • 1
  • Hein de Vries
    • 1
  1. 1.School for Public Health and Primary Care (Caphri), Department of Health Education and Health Promotion, Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life ScienceMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands

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