Socioeconomic inequalities in attitudes towards cancer: An international cancer benchmarking partnership study

Samantha L. Quaife, Kelly Winstanley, Katie A. Robb, Alice E. Simon, Amanda J. Ramirez, Lindsay J L Forbes, Kate E. Brain, Anna Gavin, Jane Wardle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)
319 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Socioeconomic status (SES) differences in attitudes towards cancer have been implicated in the differential screening uptake and the timeliness of symptomatic presentation. However, the predominant emphasis of this work has been on cancer fatalism, and many studies focus on specific community subgroups. This study aimed to assess SES differences in positive and negative attitudes towards cancer in UK adults. A population-based sample of UK adults (n=6965, age≥50 years) completed the Awareness and Beliefs about Cancer scale, including six belief items: three positively framed (e.g. 'Cancer can often be cured') and three negatively framed (e.g. 'A cancer diagnosis is a death sentence'). SES was indexed by education. Analyses controlled for sex, ethnicity, marital status, age, self-rated health, and cancer experience. There were few education-level differences for the positive statements, and overall agreement was high (all>90%). In contrast, there were strong differences for negative statements (all Ps<0.001). Among respondents with lower education levels, 57% agreed that 'treatment is worse than cancer', 27% that cancer is 'a death sentence' and 16% 'would not want to know if I have cancer'. Among those with university education, the respective proportions were 34, 17 and 6%. Differences were not explained by cancer experience or health status. In conclusion, positive statements about cancer outcomes attract near-universal agreement. However, this optimistic perspective coexists alongside widespread fears about survival and treatment, especially among less-educated groups. Health education campaigns targeting socioeconomically disadvantaged groups might benefit from a focus on reducing negative attitudes, which is not necessarily achieved by promoting positive attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-260
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Journal of Cancer Prevention
Volume24
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

Keywords

  • attitude
  • cancer
  • education
  • fear
  • hope
  • social class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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    Quaife, S. L., Winstanley, K., Robb, K. A., Simon, A. E., Ramirez, A. J., Forbes, L. J. L., Brain, K. E., Gavin, A., & Wardle, J. (2015). Socioeconomic inequalities in attitudes towards cancer: An international cancer benchmarking partnership study. European Journal of Cancer Prevention, 24(3), 253-260. https://doi.org/10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000140