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Prev Med. 2004 Nov;39(5):943-50.

The role of health insurance on Pap smear and mammography utilization by immigrants living in the United States.

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  • 1Division of General Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 100032, USA.



Nearly half of recent immigrants to the United States lack health insurance. Access to cancer screening services for this group is problematic. We examine the role of health insurance and having a usual source of care (USC) on Pap smear and mammography utilization by immigrant women using a nationally representative sample.


We used a telephone survey that oversampled racial and ethnic minorities. We analyzed data on 3,622 women age 18-70. We classified the 822 foreign-born women as recent immigrants if they had resided in the United States for under 10 years; LT immigrants were those with a longer tenure.


Among recent immigrants, 73% and 78% (SE 4%) reported a Pap smear or mammogram, respectively, in the previous 2 years versus 89% and 89% of U.S.-born women (P < 0.05 for both comparisons). Among those with insurance or a USC, differences in screening between recent immigrants and U.S.-born women were four percentage points or less and not statistically significant. However, uninsured recent immigrants were less likely than uninsured U.S.-born women to have Pap smears [60% (SE 7%) versus 71%, P < 0.05]. Adjusting for differences in sociodemographics, health attitudes or beliefs, patient or provider communication, and the medical care environment, insurance remained the strongest predictor of screening.


Disparities in screening were greatly attenuated among the insured population. Increasing awareness of available safety net sources of care may also improve cancer screening among uninsured recent immigrants.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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