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Am J Prev Med. 2014 Mar;46(3):303-11. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.10.004.

Behavioral research in cancer prevention and control: a look to the future.

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Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland. Electronic address:
Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland.


Human behavior is central to the etiology and management of cancer outcomes and presents several avenues for targeted and sustained intervention. Psychosocial experiences such as stress and health behaviors including tobacco use, sun exposure, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle increase the risk of some cancers yet are often quite resistant to change. Cancer screening and other health services are misunderstood and over-utilized, and vaccination underutilized, in part because of the avalanche of information about cancer prevention. Coordination of cancer care is suboptimal, and only a small fraction of cancer patients enroll in clinical trials essential to the development of new cancer treatments. A growing population of cancer survivors has necessitated a fresh view of cancer as a chronic rather than acute disease. Fortunately, behavioral research can address a wide variety of key processes and outcomes across the cancer control continuum from prevention to end-of-life care. Here we consider effects at the biobehavioral and psychological, social and organizational, and environmental levels. We challenge the research community to address key behavioral targets across all levels of influence, while taking into account the many new methodological tools that can facilitate this important work.

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