Enthusiasm for cancer screening in Great Britain: a general population survey

Br J Cancer. 2015 Feb 3;112(3):562-6. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.643. Epub 2014 Dec 23.


Background: With growing concerns about risk of harm from cancer screening, particularly from overdiagnosis, this study aimed to assess public attitudes to cancer screening in Great Britain.

Methods: We used a population-based survey to assess attitudes to cancer screening, screening history and demographic characteristics, in men and women aged 50-80 years. Data were collected using face-to-face computer-assisted interviews in 2012.

Results: In our sample of 2024, attitudes to cancer screening were overwhelmingly positive with almost 90% believing that screening is 'almost always a good idea' and 49% saying they would be tested for cancer even if it was untreatable. Attitudes were particularly positive among those who had previously taken part in breast or colorectal screening.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that attitudes to cancer screening are very positive in Great Britain. Widespread enthusiasm for cancer screening may hamper attempts to encourage a greater appreciation of the limitations and potential harms of screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Community Participation / statistics & numerical data
  • Data Collection
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology*
  • Early Detection of Cancer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology