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Prev Med. 2007 Nov;45(5):336-41. Epub 2007 Jul 26.

Familial risk and colorectal cancer screening health beliefs and attitudes in an insured population.

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  • 1Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



To examine the relationship between health beliefs and attitudes toward colorectal cancer screening, strength of family history risk, and being appropriately screened for colorectal cancer.


In February 2004, 7000 randomly selected members of a multi-specialty group practice located in Boston, MA were mailed a brief survey that was used to ascertain colorectal cancer family history. A follow-up survey that contained questions representing selected constructs of the Health Belief Model, Theory of Planned Behavior, and healthcare experiences was then mailed to all 355 individuals who reported a family history in the initial survey and 710 randomly selected participants with no colorectal cancer family history.


Participants who were appropriately screened had higher mean scores for perceived cancer risk, subjective norms, and perceived benefits and lower scores for perceived barriers. Multivariate findings indicate that having high perceptions of risk for colorectal cancer was a significant correlate of being screened appropriately among individuals with a strong family history.


For those at greatest colorectal cancer risk due to family history, ensuring that these individuals understand their personal risk might lead to increased colorectal cancer screening participation. Future intervention research is warranted to examine if raising perceptions of risk can increase screening behaviors in individuals with colorectal cancer risk due to family history.

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