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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Jun;18(6):1699-705. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-09-0020.

Bias associated with self-report of prior screening mammography.

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Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Statistical Research and Applications Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-7344, USA.



Self-reported screening behaviors from national surveys often overestimate screening use, and the amount of overestimation may vary by demographic characteristics. We examine self-report bias in mammography screening rates overall, by age, and by race/ethnicity.


We use mammography registry data (1999-2000) from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to estimate the validity of self-reported mammography screening collected by two national surveys. First, we compare mammography use from 1999 to 2000 for a geographically defined population (Vermont) with self-reported rates in the prior two years from the 2000 Vermont Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We then use a screening dissemination simulation model to assess estimates of mammography screening from the 2000 National Health Interview Survey.


Self-report estimates of mammography use in the prior 2 years from the Vermont Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System are 15 to 25 percentage points higher than actual screening rates across age groups. The differences in National Health Interview Survey screening estimates from models are similar for women 40 to 49 and 50 to 59 years and greater than for those 60 to 69, or 70 to 79 (27 and 26 percentage points versus 14, and 14, respectively). Overreporting is highest among African American women (24.4 percentage points) and lowest among Hispanic women (17.9) with non-Hispanic White women in between (19.3). Values of sensitivity and specificity consistent with our results are similar to previous validation studies of mammography.


Overestimation of self-reported mammography usage from national surveys varies by age and race/ethnicity. A more nuanced approach that accounts for demographic differences is needed when adjusting for overestimation or assessing disparities between populations.

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