The relation between projected breast cancer risk, perceived cancer risk, and mammography use: Results from the national health interview survey

C. P. Gross, G. Filardo, H. S. Singh, A. N. Freedman, M. H. Farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Although the use of mammography on at regular intervals can save lives, not all women obtain the repeat mammography recommended in guidelines. OBJECTIVE: To assess the associations between routine mammography use, perceived cancer risk, and actual projected cancer risk. METHODS: We include women who were 45 to 75 years of age and who had responded to the 2000 National Health Interview Survey. Women who reported that they believed their risk of getting cancer in the future was "medium" or "high" were considered jointly as "medium/high-risk perception.""Routine mammography use" was defined as having ≥3 mammograms in the previous 6 years. We used logistic regression to determine the independent relation between cancer risk perception, projected breast cancer risk, and routine mammography use. RESULTS: Of the 6,002 women who met our inclusion criteria, 63.1% reported routine mammography use. About 76% of women in the highest quartile of projected breast cancer risk reported routine mammography use, compared with only 68%, 64%, and 51% in the third, second, and first quartiles, respectively (P<.001 chi-square test for trend). After adjusting for indicators of access to care, sociodemographic and behavioral factors, and perceived cancer risk, women in the highest quartiles of projected cancer risk were significantly more likely to report routine mammogram use than women in the lowest quartile (odds ratio [OR] of women in third and fourth quartiles were 1.57 [1.24 to 1.99], and 2.23 [1.73 to 2.87] vs the lowest quartile, respectively). Women with a higher perceived cancer risk were significantly more likely to undergo routine mammography (adjusted OR: 1.29 [1.12 to 1.48] P=.001). Cancer risk perceptions tended to be higher among women who were younger age, obese, smokers, depressed, or reported one of the following breast cancer risk factors: family breast cancer history, prior abnormal mammogram, and early age at menarche. CONCLUSION: Actual and perceived risk were independent predictors of routine mammography use, suggesting that efforts to incorporate risk profiles into clinical decision making may need to involve more than just relaying information about projected risks to patients, but also to explore how risk perceptions can be affected by this information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Mammography
  • Risk assessment
  • Screening


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