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Annu Rev Public Health. 2008;29:351-68.

A critical review of theory in breast cancer screening promotion across cultures.

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  • 1Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0981, USA.


This article reviews the contribution and potential of widely used health behavior theories in research designed to understand and redress the disproportionate burden of breast cancer borne by diverse race/ethnic, immigrant, and low-income groups associated with unequal use of mammography. We review the strengths and limitations of widely used theories and the extent to which theory contributes to the understanding of screening disparities and informs effective intervention. The dominant focus of most theories on individual cognition is critically assessed as the abstraction of behavior from its social context. Proposed alternatives emphasize multilevel ecological approaches and the use of anthropologic theory and methods for more culturally grounded understandings of screening behavior. Common and alternative treatments of fatalism exemplify this approach, and descriptive and intervention research exemplars further highlight the integration of screening behavior and sociocultural context.

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