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Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Jul;90(1):16-21.

Prevalence and correlates of breast and cervical cancer screening among older women.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Cornell University Medical College, New York, New York, USA.



To identify and assess differences in cancer screening patterns among women 55-64, 65-74, 75-84, and over 84 years of age.


Nationally representative data reported in the 1990 Health promotion and Disease Prevention Supplement to the National Health Interview Survey of 28,584,574 women were analyzed secondarily. The dependent variables were a knowledge of breast self-examination, over having had a mammogram, and a Papanicolaou smear within the last 3 years. Independent variables were age and various sociodemographic, health-status, and health-belief measures.


More than half (58%) of the women had ever had a mammogram, and of these, 91% had had between one and five mammograms. Over a third (35%) of those who had not had a mammogram attributed the omission to a lack of a recommendation by a physician. Almost half (45%) had had a breast examination by a physician within the last year, and 84% knew how to examine their own breasts. Approximately 87% had a Papanicolaou smear with the last 3 years. Age, race, education, and living in a large city were significantly associated with all three screening measures, but prevalent health beliefs were significantly associated only with breast-cancer screening.


Lack of mammogram screening in a substantial number of women, attributed to lack of physician recommendation, decreased screening in the older age groups, and the negative association of three screening tests with race and residence in a large city suggest that new interventions are needed by health care providers and the public health community to increase older women's use of effective cancer screening techniques.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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