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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Aug;17(8):1937-44. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0005. Epub 2008 Aug 6.

Perceived medical discrimination and cancer screening behaviors of racial and ethnic minority adults.

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  • 1Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, Palo Alto, California, USA.



Discrimination has been shown as a major causal factor in health disparities, yet little is known about the relationship between perceived medical discrimination (versus general discrimination outside of medical settings) and cancer screening behaviors. We examined whether perceived medical discrimination is associated with lower screening rates for colorectal and breast cancers among racial and ethnic minority adult Californians.


Pooled cross-sectional data from 2003 and 2005 California Health Interview Survey were examined for cancer screening trends among African American, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian, and Latino adult respondents reporting perceived medical discrimination compared with those not reporting discrimination (n = 11,245). Outcome measures were dichotomous screening variables for colorectal cancer among respondents ages 50 to 75 years and breast cancer among women ages 40 to 75 years.


Women perceiving medical discrimination were less likely to be screened for colorectal [odds ratio (OR), 0.66; 95% confidence interval (95% CI), 0.64-0.69] or breast cancer (OR, 0.52; 95% CI, 0.51-0.54) compared with women not perceiving discrimination. Although men who perceived medical discrimination were no less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than those who did not (OR, 1.02; 95% CI, 0.97-1.07), significantly lower screening rates were found among men who perceived discrimination and reported having a usual source of health care (OR, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.28-0.32).


These findings of a significant association between perceived racial or ethnic-based medical discrimination and cancer screening behaviors have serious implications for cancer health disparities. Gender differences in patterns for screening and perceived medical discrimination warrant further investigation.

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