Diversity matters: Unique populations of women and breast cancer screening

Cancer. 2004 Jun 1;100(11):2300-7. doi: 10.1002/cncr.20278.


Background: Ethnic differences in breast cancer screening behaviors are well established. However, there is a lack of understanding regarding exactly what causes these differences and which characteristics in low-screening populations should be targeted in an effort to modify screening behavior.

Methods: Stratified cluster sampling was used to recruit 1364 women (ages 50-70 years) from 6 ethnic groups: African-American women; U.S.-born white women; English-speaking Caribbean, Haitian, and Dominican women; and immigrant Eastern-European women. In interviews, respondents provided information concerning demographic and structural variables related to mammogram utilization (age, education, income, marital status, physician recommendation, access, and insurance) and a set of cognitive variables (fatalism, perception of personal risk, health beliefs concerning cancer) and socioemotional variables (stress, cancer worry, embarrassment, and pain).

Results: For data analysis, the authors used a 2-step logistic regression with frequency of mammograms over a 10-year period (< or = 4 mammograms over 10 years or > or = 5 mammograms over 10 years) as a dependent variable. U.S.-born African-American women and Dominican women were screened as frequently as European-American women, but the remaining minority groups were screened with less frequency. With one exception, ethnicity ceased to predict screening frequency once cognitive and emotional variables were controlled.

Conclusions: Although women from clearly operationalized ethnic groups continue to screen at rates substantially below those of the majority groups, these differences appear to be explained substantially by differences in psychologic variables. This is encouraging because, rather than targeting culture for intervention, variables can be targeted that are amenable to change, such as emotions and beliefs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Socioeconomic Factors