Objective. To go beyond the documentation of disparities by race and SES by analyzing health behaviors regarding preventive and cancer screening services and determining if these behaviors are associated with stage of cancer when first diagnosed.
Data. Stage of cancer for Medicare patients diagnosed in 1995 with breast, colorectal, uterine, ovarian, prostate, bladder, or stomach cancer; and use of influenza and pneumonia immunization, mammography, pap smear, colon cancer screening, and the prostate specific antigen test during the two years preceding diagnosis of cancer.
Study Design. Hypothesis tested: health behaviors regarding use of preventive and cancer screening services are associated with stage of cancer when first diagnosed.
Data Collection/Extraction Methods. Information was extracted from the database formed by the linkage of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registries with Medicare files.
Principal Findings. Black and white patients (of higher and lower SES) who used more of the preventive and cancer screening services were at a lower risk of having late stage cancer for six cancers studied (breast, colorectal [male and female], prostate, uterine, and male bladder cancer) than their counterparts who used fewer of these services.
Conclusions. The use of preventive and cancer screening services is a health behavior associated with better health outcomes for the elderly diagnosed with cancer. The lack of preventive service use can serve as a marker for identifying persons at risk of late stage cancer when first diagnosed. Strategies that encourage the use of preventive services by low users of these services are likely to reinforce a range of healthy behaviors that help to ameliorate disparities in health outcomes.