The authors thank Eric Nehl, MS, and S. Jane Henley, MSPH, for advice regarding data analysis and Elizabeth Ward, PhD, for advice concerning design of the epidemiologist survey.
Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of beliefs regarding cancer risks
Article first published online: 26 JUL 2007
Copyright © 2007 American Cancer Society
Volume 110, Issue 5, pages 1139–1148, 1 September 2007
How to Cite
Stein, K., Zhao, L., Crammer, C. and Gansler, T. (2007), Prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of beliefs regarding cancer risks. Cancer, 110: 1139–1148. doi: 10.1002/cncr.22880
- Issue published online: 20 AUG 2007
- Article first published online: 26 JUL 2007
- Manuscript Accepted: 24 APR 2007
- Manuscript Revised: 13 APR 2007
- Manuscript Received: 29 JAN 2007
- Intramural funding of the American Cancer Society as well as outside funding from the Discovery Health Channel and Prevention Magazine
- health knowledge;
- health education;
- patient education;
- attitude to health
Inaccurate beliefs about cancer risk may contribute to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and poor adherence to recommended screening and prevention guidelines. To address this issue the current study assessed the prevalence and sociodemographic correlates of scientifically unsubstantiated beliefs about cancer risk in a representative sample of the US population.
Nine hundred fifty-seven US adults with no history of cancer were surveyed by telephone. The survey included 12 statements about cancer risk, risk factors, and prevention that were framed to be contrary to the consensus of current scientific evidence.
Participants were inconsistent in their ability to identify the statements as false, and appraisal accuracy was associated with several sociodemographic characteristics. Five of the 12 misconceptions were endorsed as true by at least a quarter of the respondents, and uncertainty was higher than 15% for 7 statements. At the same time, more than two-thirds of the participants were able to identify 7 statements as false and, on average, respondents endorsed fewer than 3 statements as true. Respondents who were male, older, non-White, less educated, and of lower income were most likely to hold inaccurate beliefs.
A notable percentage of the participants in this study hold beliefs about cancer risk at odds with the prevailing scientific evidence. Because the population segments with the least accurate knowledge also bear the greatest burden of cancer, areas for public education and intervention efforts are identified. Cancer 2007. © 2007 American Cancer Society.