Background: In medically underserved communities, the transfer of information through social networks may help promote healthy behaviors when traditional health education channels are not effective.
Material/methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 212 young Mexican and Dominican women and 212 of their older female relatives (age 40-88) regarding knowledge and practices of breast cancer screening, allowing analysis of agreement between women of different generations in the same family.
Results: Women in the study had low educational attainment and had poor access to health care. Two-thirds of all participants reported that they talked to their relatives about breast cancer screening; these women were significantly more likely to perform BSE, but not to have had clinical breast exams or mammograms. Measurement of prevalence-adjusted bias-adjusted kappa between the 212 family pairs found agreement on knowledge of the various screening methods and on sources of health information, but not on BSE or clinical breast exam behavior.
Conclusions: These mixed findings do not suggest a direct relationship between information sharing within a family and screening behavior. An innovative model of training young women connected to regular medical care to convey information and reinforce existing educational messages for the older women in their families may be successful. But the lack of a pattern of similar screening behaviors within the family pairs indicates that any such effort would need to begin by providing the young women with accurate information about screening.