Cancer fear and fatalism among ethnic minority women in the United Kingdom

Br J Cancer. 2016 Mar 1;114(5):597-604. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2016.15. Epub 2016 Feb 11.


Background: Cancer fear and fatalism are believed to be higher in ethnic minorities and may contribute to lower engagement with cancer prevention and early detection. We explored the levels of cancer fear and fatalism in six ethnic groups in the United Kingdom and examined the contribution of acculturation and general fatalism.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 720 White British, Caribbean, African, Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi women (120 of each) was conducted. Three items assessed cancer fear and two cancer fatalism. Acculturation was assessed using (self-reported) migration status, ability to speak English, and understanding of health leaflets; general fatalism with a standard measure.

Results: Relative to White British women, African and Indian women were more fearful of cancer, Bangladeshi women less fearful, and Pakistani and Caribbean women were similar to White British women. Cancer fatalism was higher in all the ethnic minority groups compared with White British women. Less acculturated women were less likely to worry (ORs 0.21-0.45, all P<0.05) or feel particularly afraid (ORs 0.11-0.31, all P<0.05) but more likely to feel uncomfortable about cancer (ORs 1.97-3.03, all P<0.05). Lower acculturation (ORs 4.30-17.27, P<0.05) and general fatalism (OR 2.29, P<0.05) were associated with the belief that cancer is predetermined.

Conclusions: In general, cancer fear and fatalism are more prevalent among ethnic minority than White British women and even more so in less acculturated ethnic minorities. This may affect their participation in cancer prevention and early detection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Asians / psychology
  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Bangladesh / ethnology
  • Blacks / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India / ethnology
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pakistan / ethnology
  • United Kingdom
  • West Indies / ethnology
  • Whites / psychology
  • Women / psychology*