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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Aug;17(8):1872-9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0074.

Psychologic predictors of cancer information avoidance among older adults: the role of cancer fear and fatalism.

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Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, Gower Street, London, United Kingdom W1CE 6BT.


Little is known about the correlates of cancer information avoidance and whether people with negative feelings and beliefs about cancer are more likely to avoid cancer information, allowing such thoughts and feelings to persist unchallenged. Using the Extended Parallel Processing Model as a theoretical guide, we tested the hypothesis that cancer fear and fatalism would predict cancer information avoidance but that part of this effect would be mediated via cancer-specific threat and efficacy beliefs. A community sample of older adults, ages 50 to 70 years (n = 1,442), completed a postal questionnaire that included the Powe Fatalism Inventory and the Champion Cancer Fear scale along with other measures of cancer-specific beliefs and demographic variables. Higher levels of cancer fear were positively associated with higher levels of cancer information avoidance, and part of this relationship was mediated via perceived cancer severity. The relationship between cancer fatalism and cancer information avoidance was partly mediated by severity and response-efficacy beliefs. This research shows that people with negative views about cancer are more likely to avoid cancer information. This means people with higher levels of cancer fear and fatalism are less likely to learn about positive developments made in the field of cancer control, allowing such negative feelings and views to continue. Research needs to focus on how to get positive messages about improvements in cancer prevention and control through to people who are fearful of and fatalistic about the disease.

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