Health locus of control expectancies and perceived risk for breast cancer in women
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Although early detection is closely linked to survival of breast cancer many women do not adhere to recommended screening guidelines. One of the most studied factors that contribute to women's screening behavior is their perceived risk of developing breast cancer. Psychological distress has also been associated with nonadherence to screening behaviors as well as overperformance of breast self-examinations. Research has found that a family history of cancer promotes perceptions of cancer risk. Health locus of control, an individual difference construct derived from social learning theory, is the general expectancy that one's behavior either is, or is not, directly related to one's health outcomes. Based on social learning theory, more specific locus of control beliefs should account for relations between general propensities and outcomes. Few studies have examined the relations between health locus of control and perceived risk of developing breast cancer.;In this study, 66 healthy women with and without family histories of breast cancer completed sociodemographic questions, the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) Scale, a face-valid specific breast cancer locus of control measure, and three face-valid perceived risk for breast cancer questions. The perceived risk outcome variables consisted of questions inquiring about the likelihood of "developing breast cancer," the certainty of remaining "free of breast cancer," and the likelihood of developing breast cancer "compared to other women.";The central findings of the study were as follows: (1) Family history of breast cancer predicted perceived risk as measured by two of the three perceived risk measures, (2) Marital status predicted perceived risk as measured by one of the perceived risk variables, (3) Internal locus of control and specific breast cancer locus of control predicted a third perceived risk variable, and (4) Specific breast cancer locus of control perfectly mediated the relationship between internal locus of control and perceived risk.;Findings emphasize the multifaceted nature of perceived risk and the importance of utilizing consistent and reliable measures in studies examining perception of risk. Results also underscore the importance of using specific health-related locus of control measurements in assessments of the relationship between locus of control and outcome variables.