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Sociol Health Illn. 2008 May;30(4):599-615. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2007.01079.x. Epub 2008 Feb 20.

Collective memory, candidacy, and victimisation: community epidemiologies of breast cancer risk.

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1
Committee on the History of Culture, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60615, USA. tsalant@uchicago.edu

Abstract

Collectively shared ideas of community may be equally relevant for the study of health disparities as quantifying the relationship between community structures and health. Data from focus groups (N = 18) that explored understandings of breast cancer and breast cancer risk in African American neighbourhoods revealed three conceptual domains where shared ideas of community informed responses: collective memory, community candidacy, and community victimisation by external aggressors. Reading the focus group responses in terms of these domains identified perceptions of risk and of candidacy that may be overlooked by individualised or quantitative approaches to studying breast cancer risk perceptions and related behaviours. These include novel perceived risks, such as the 'risk of knowing', as well as community-level constructions of breast cancer candidacy. 'Lay epidemiologies' of breast cancer within this population might therefore be better understood as 'community epidemiologies', where community is central to the interpretation and operationalisation of breast cancer risk. Paying attention to such community epidemiologies of breast cancer provides theoretical insights for studying breast cancer disparities and risk perceptions as well as useful guidance for designing interventions.

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