How making a risk estimate can change the feel of that risk: Shifting attitudes toward breast cancer risk in a general public survey.

Counseling women about breast cancer risks has been found to decrease screening compliance. We investigated whether women's reactions to risk information are an artifact of requiring women to estimate the risk of breast cancer prior to receiving risk information. Three hundred and fifty-six women were randomized to either make or not make a risk estimate prior to receiving risk information. Outcome measures were participants' estimates of the average woman's breast cancer risk and their emotional response to the risk information. Women overestimated the lifetime risk of breast cancer (M = 46%). Women who made risk estimates felt more relieved about the risk and perceived the risk as being lower than women who did not make estimates (p's < 0.001). Asking people to estimate risks influenced their subsequent perceptions of the risk of breast cancer.

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