Background Shared decision making has become an integral part of medical consultation. Research has, however, reported wide differences in individuals' desires to be involved in the decision-making process, and these differences in preferences are likely to be the result of a number of factors including age, education and numeracy.

Objective To investigate whether patients at genetic risk for cancer had preferences for shared decision making that differed depending on medical domain (general health vs. cancer) and whether decision preferences are linked to numeracy abilities. 

Methods Four hundred and seventy-six women who consented to participate in response to an email sent by a local branch of the U.S.-based Cancer Genetics Network (CGN) to its members. Participants completed the Control Preference Scale, as well as an objective and subjective numeracy scales. 

Results Decision domain (cancer vs. general health) was not associated with women's preferences for involvement in decision making. Objective and subjective numeracy predicted a preference for decision involvement in general, and only objective numeracy was predictive with regard to cancer. 

Conclusion Participants were equally likely to state they wanted to play an active, collaborative or passive role in both medical domains (general and cancer). High-numeracy participants were more likely to express a desire for an active role in general and in case they were diagnosed with cancer. 

Practice implications Health authorities' recommendations to clinicians to include patients in their medical decisions are supported by patients' desires, and clinicians should be cognizant of their patients' preferences as well as their numeracy skills.

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