A descriptive cross-cultural survey regarding beliefs about cancer risk
Carter, Jeanne Carole
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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Racial and cultural minorities living in the United States have high cancer incidence and mortality rates. Research has shown that many cancers can be prevented or even cured if detected and treated early. This study sought to examine whether one's culture of origin influences beliefs about cancer risk factors among an urban minority sample. This investigation into the cancer perceptions of the participants focused on knowledge and beliefs existing within distinct racial/ethnic groups, and the identification of any potential group differences contributed by acculturation level or cultural heritage. The study population consisted of home health care workers in the South Bronx, NY. Home health care workers were selected for participation due to their cultural diversity and convenience of sample. Subjects were presented with a three page questionnaire in English or Spanish consisting of: (a) scientifically-validated and Non-Scientific cancer risk factor beliefs (b) items measuring acculturation and (c) questions eliciting demographic information. Two methods of investigation were employed for this study. The first method assessed the level of acculturation in a sample of Hispanic participants and determined whether beliefs about cancer risk factors are associated with acculturation level. No significant relationship was shown between endorsement of cancer risk factor beliefs and acculturation level. In light of the restricted acculturation range found in this sample, a relationship between these variables may have been obscured. The second method identified groups existing within the sample according to country of origin, used as a proxy measure of culture, and made comparisons of the degree of endorsement for the cancer risk factor beliefs. This study was successful in demonstrating differences in cancer risk factor beliefs based on cultural background, i.e. Latino, American and Caribbean. One of the most crucial findings of the present study is the high prevalence and cultural specificity of cancer misperceptions among a minority sample. Cancer misperceptions or non-scientific cancer beliefs exist within the minority populations and as a result, are an essential part of any cancer intervention and should not be dismissed as merely folklore.