Breast and cervical cancer screening among migrant and seasonal farmworkers: a review

Cancer Detect Prev. 2002;26(3):203-9. doi: 10.1016/s0361-090x(02)00058-2.


Women constitute about one in five hired farmworkers in the US. Their health may be affected by exposure to unhealthy living and working conditions, by increased exposure to health hazards, by poverty, and by poor utilization of health care and preventive services. About 69% of migrant and seasonal farmworkers were born outside the US, mostly in Mexico and central America, and many speak little English. The health concerns of women who are migrant and seasonal farmworkers include breast and cervical cancer, which can be prevented or controlled through routine screening, but cancer incidence and mortality data for migrant workers are sparse. We reviewed published studies that examined breast and cervical cancer screening in this population. These studies include cross-sectional surveys, health needs assessments, and randomized and non-randomized intervention trials. A review of published studies of cancer screening among women who are migrant and seasonal farmworkers indicates that underutilization of mammograms and Papanicolau (Pap) tests among this population may stem from their limited awareness of the importance of cancer screening and cultural beliefs. Other barriers include cost, lack of health insurance, lack of transportation and child care difficulties. The extent to which results obtained in selected localities are generalizable to other settings is uncertain, but results to date provide important information about possible approaches for increasing cancer screening among women migrant farmworkers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data*