Lung Cancer Screening and Stigma: Do Smoking-related Differences in Perceived Lung Cancer Stigma Emerge Prior to Diagnosis?

Stigma Health. 2023 Nov;8(4):497-500. doi: 10.1037/sah0000300. Epub 2021 Apr 8.


Background: Most lung cancer patients report experiencing stigma (i.e., devaluation based on one's lung cancer diagnosis), which is associated with adverse health outcomes. Lung cancer is stigmatized due to its robust association with smoking and the perception of the disease as self-inflicted.

Purpose: Identifying sociodemographic and smoking-related correlates of perceived stigma among lung cancer screening-eligible adults (early in the cancer care trajectory) is needed to guide proactive psychosocial interventions to reduce stigma and improve health for patients newly diagnosed with lung cancer.

Methods: A national sample of lung cancer screening-eligible adults (N = 515; 64.9% female) completed questionnaires on sociodemographic information, smoking-related characteristics, and perceived smoking-related lung cancer stigma. Zero-order and multivariate relationships between sociodemographic variables, smoking-related characteristics, and stigma were evaluated using Pearson's correlations, t-tests, ANOVAs, and multivariable regression.

Results: The multivariable regression demonstrated that younger age (b = -0.05, p = .047) was associated significantly with higher stigma. Additionally, women (b = 0.63, p = .015), participants who reported Hispanic/Latino ethnicity (b = 1.07, p = .049), and those with a college degree or higher (all p ≤ .029) reported significantly higher stigma, compared to men, those who did not report Hispanic/Latino ethnicity, and other education categories, respectively. None of the smoking-related characteristics were associated significantly with perceived stigma (all p > .12).

Conclusions: Sociodemographic variables (rather than smoking-related characteristics) significantly and uniquely differentiated lung cancer screening-eligible adults' perception of lung cancer stigma. Smoking-related differences in lung cancer stigma may emerge following rather than prior to diagnosis.

Keywords: lung cancer; screening; smoking history; smoking status; stigma.