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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Mar;19(3):746-54. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-1085. Epub 2010 Feb 16.

Perceived cancer risk: why is it lower among nonwhites than whites?

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  • 1The School of Public Health and Health Professions, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14214, USA.



We explored racial/ethnic differences in perceived cancer risk and determinants of these differences in a nationally representative sample of whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians.


Multiple regression techniques, including mediational analyses, were used to identify determinants and quantify racial/ethnic differences in the perception of the risk of developing cancer among 5,581 adult respondents to the 2007 Health Information Trends Survey (HINTS).


Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians reported lower perceived cancer risk than whites [Bs = -0.40, -0.34, and -0.69, respectively; (Ps < 0.001)]. Contributing factors included relatively lower likelihood of reporting a family history of cancer, lower likelihood of having smoked, and a less strong belief that everything causes cancer among nonwhites than among whites. Racial/ethnic differences in perceived risk were attenuated in older respondents because perceived cancer risk was negatively associated with age for whites but not for nonwhites.


Nonwhites had lower perceptions of cancer risk than whites. Some of the racial/ethnic variability in perceived risk may be due to racial and ethnic differences in awareness of one's family history of cancer and its relevance for cancer risk, experiences with behavioral risk factors, and salience of cancer risk information.

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