Perceptions of colorectal cancer in a socioeconomically disadvantaged population

J Community Health. 1993 Dec;18(6):347-62. doi: 10.1007/BF01323966.


This study examined 500 low socioeconomic adults' perceptions and practices regarding bowel cancer. At least 20 percent of respondents incorrectly believed homosexual men are more likely to develop bowel cancer, exercising regularly will not affect bowel cancer, bowel cancer does not run in families, and eating foods high in fat does not increase bowel cancer risks. Approximately 7 in 10 respondents did not perceive themselves as more susceptible to developing bowel cancer even though the same number of respondents acknowledged that poor people are more likely to develop bowel cancer. The majority (54 percent) believed that if you develop bowel cancer, it will kill you. The majority of respondents did not believe that fecal occult blood tests could help save their lives if they had bowel cancer since 90 percent perceived bowel cancer as incurable even if found early. The main barriers to screening for bowel cancer identified by the respondents were: being too embarrassed to have a proctoscopic exam (77%), not wanting to know if they had bowel cancer (78%), preferring to die rather than have their bowel removed for cancer (80%), and trouble with transportation (81%). Thirty percent of the respondents had personally done a stool occult blood test and the same number claimed they had a proctoscopic exam. The results of this survey indicate that there is considerable room for improvement in knowledge, perceptions, and practices of economically disadvantaged subjects regarding bowel cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Ohio
  • Socioeconomic Factors