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Study Suggests Ethnic Differences in Self-Reported Cancer Screening


Many estimates of cancer screening are based on self-reported screening behavior. Several studies suggest that non-whites may be more likely than whites to over-report screening behavior, which may have considerable implications for research on racial and ethnic disparities in cancer screening. This study had two goals: 1) review the literature on the relationship between race/ethnicity and the accuracy of self-reported cancer screening, and 2) develop a conceptual framework that provides a deeper understanding of factors underlying this relationship. Investigators identified 4 studies comparing racial differences in cancer screening rates assessed by claims data versus self-report and 14 validation studies containing subgroups not included in a recent meta-analysis by another author.

Findings show that racial and ethnic minorities may be less likely to provide accurate reports of their cancer screening behavior and that over-reporting may be particularly problematic. Research suggests that this might be rectified by changing how screening questions are worded and developing different methods for data collection. For example, there is evidence that minorities might have more discomfort than whites in discussing their health behaviors with an interviewer from a different racial or ethnic group, and that over-reporting among minorities is greater when the interviewer is white. The conceptual framework offered by study investigators has the potential to advance the field by guiding exploration of where and why possible bias may be occurring and suggesting ways in which these biases might be reduced.

PubMed Logo Burgess D, Powell A, Griffin J, and Partin M. Race and the validity of self-reported cancer screening behaviors: Development of a conceptual model. Preventive Medicine February 2009;48(2):99-107.

This study was funded by HSR&D. All authors are part of HSR&D’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research in Minneapolis.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.