The relevance of fatalism in the study of Latinas' cancer screening behavior: a systematic review of the literature

Int J Behav Med. 2011 Dec;18(4):310-8. doi: 10.1007/s12529-010-9119-4.


Background: Fatalism has been identified as a dominant belief among Latinos and is believed to act as a barrier to cancer prevention. However, controversy exists over the utility of the construct in explaining health disparities experienced by disadvantaged populations above the influence of structural barriers such as low socioeconomic status (SES) and limited access to health care.

Purpose: This paper reviews the empirical research on fatalism and Latinas' participation in cancer screening in an attempt to determine whether fatalism predicts participation in cancer screening after accounting for structural barriers.

Method: Google Scholar, ERIC, CINAHL, Medline, PsychINFO, ProQuest, PubMed, and PsychARTICLES were searched for empirical studies published prior to February 25, 2010.

Results: A total of 43 articles were obtained and 11 met the inclusion criteria. The majority of studies (64%) reported a statistically significant association between fatalism and utilization of cancer screening services after accounting for structural barriers. However, mixed findings and limitations in measurement and design across studies preclude clear conclusions about the nature of the relationship.

Conclusion: Preliminary evidence for an inverse association between fatalism and Latinas' utilization of cancer screening services after accounting for structural barriers was identified. However, additional research that addresses methodological limitations is warranted to advance our understanding of the utility of fatalism in explaining inequities in cancer burden experienced by this at-risk group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior / ethnology*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice / ethnology*
  • Hispanic Americans / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mammography / statistics & numerical data
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Occult Blood
  • United States
  • Vaginal Smears / psychology
  • Vaginal Smears / statistics & numerical data