, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 287-295
Date: 29 Mar 2012

Cancer perceptions: implications from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey

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Research has demonstrated associations between sociodemographic characteristics and illness perceptions; however, the impact of cancer exposure through personal or family diagnoses is not well-studied. The purposes of this study were to examine different cancer beliefs and disparities in cancer beliefs across groups of individuals with distinct cancer histories and to identify whether cancer history predicts a set of cancer beliefs.


Using Leventhal’s Common Sense Model and data from the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (N = 7,172), we constructed multivariable logistic regression models to evaluate the effect of different stimuli, including cancer experience on cancer perceptions (e.g., prevention, causation, outcome, worry).


Findings indicated significant associations between cancer history and cancer perceptions. Individuals with family and personal cancer histories were more likely than individuals without any cancer history to worry about getting cancer (OR = 3.55, 95 %CI = 2.53–4.99), agree they will develop cancer in the future (OR = 8.81, 95 %CI = 6.12–12.67) and disagree that cancer is most often caused by a person’s behavior or lifestyle (OR = 1.24, 95 %CI = 1.01–1.52).


Cancer history affects perceptions throughout the cancer continuum. Additionally, cancer history may influence coping behaviors and outcomes. Cancer education and survivorship programs should assess important variables such as cancer history to more effectively tailor services and monitor evolving needs throughout cancer care. IMPLICATIONS FOR CANCER SURVIVORS: Integrating cancer history information into patient education programs tailored to an individual’s needs may better empower survivors and their family members to effectively promote informed decision-making about screening and preventive health behaviors, manage cancer worry, and enhance quality of life.