Cancer risk perceptions, beliefs, and physician avoidance in Appalachia: results from the 2008 HINTS Survey

J Health Commun. 2010;15 Suppl 3:78-91. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2010.522696.


Appalachians experience increased rates of cancer incidence and mortality and high-risk health behaviors. Additionally, Appalachians are often characterized by lower socioeconomic status, geographic isolation, and cultural beliefs such as fatalism. The purpose of this descriptive analysis is to identify cancer-related risk perceptions, beliefs, and physician avoidance behaviors among Appalachians as compared with non-Appalachians using data from the National Cancer Institute's 2008 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), which contained a newly created "Appalachia" variable. Results suggest that compared with non-Appalachians, Appalachians have a significantly higher perceived risk of developing cancer in the future and are significantly more likely to associate cancer with death; believe individuals can tell they have cancer before a diagnosis; believe everything causes cancer; and admit to avoiding their physician even when they suspect they should plan a visit. Both Appalachians and non-Appalachians share similar mistaken beliefs about cancer prevention, screening, and curability, and frustration over the abundance of cancer prevention recommendations. In a geographic region recognized for cancer health disparities, development of tailored communication strategies and educational interventions designed to increase cancer knowledge may help to accurately explain cancer risk and incidence, dispel negative cancer beliefs, and promote a positive image of the doctor-patient relationship.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Appalachian Region / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Risk
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult