Colorectal screening patterns and perceptions of risk among African-American users of a community health center

J Community Health. 1996 Dec;21(6):409-27. doi: 10.1007/BF01702602.


This study investigated risk perceptions and screening patterns for colorectal cancer among predominately low-income African-Americans age 50 and older who used a community health center. The majority of respondents either rated their risk as below average (36%) or did not know their risk (37%) for colorectal cancer. Individuals who provided a risk estimate versus those who did not know their risk were younger and held more accurate beliefs about colorectal cancer. Attributions of perceived risk best distinguished respondents who evaluated their risk to be below average versus average and above average. Compared to respondents who could not explain their risk, those who provided psychological, personal action, and heredity causes were more likely to view their risk as below average than average or above average. In comparison to national norms, these subjects reported higher frequencies of ever having had a digital rectal exam (DRE, 90%), fecal occult blood test (FOBT, 75%) and sigmoidoscopy (SIG, 33%). Moreover, 63%, 53%, and 81% reported their most recent screening for DRE, FOBT, and SIG, respectively, in accordance with ACS and NCI recommended guidelines. However, a subsequent medical audit failed to confirm these self-reports. These results suggest that: 1) educational efforts are needed to enhance knowledge and accuracy of risk perceptions for colorectal cancer; 2) further studies on attributions of risk are needed that may prove useful for developing intervention programs, and 3) studies need to interpret self-report data for colorectal cancer with caution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Community Health Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Occult Blood
  • Odds Ratio
  • Palpation
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sigmoidoscopy