Cancer screening: health impact, prevalence, correlates, and interventions

Elizabeth A. Sarma, Michelle I. Silver, Sarah C. Kobrin, Pamela M. Marcus, Rebecca A. Ferrer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective: Cancer screening tests have helped to reduce cancer deaths. We provide an overview of recent research pertaining to the definition, health impact, and prevalence of several screening tests. We also discuss the multilevel correlates and determinants of screening and interventions designed to increase uptake. Design: Narrative review. Results: Epidemiologic evidence supports the effectiveness of several cancer screening tests in reducing mortality and are therefore routinely recommended. Nevertheless, uptake of routine screening falls short of recommendations in many countries, especially for colorectal cancer. Screening behaviour varies according to sociodemographic factors in addition to a range of other correlates and determinants at multiple levels. Though health behaviour theories have frequently been used to understand and identify intrapersonal level mechanisms to improve screening uptake, research suggests that additional factors from psychological and affective science, decision science, and behavioural economics should also be considered. Empirical support exists for patient education and provider recommendation interventions. Recent research has considered interventions at other levels, such as clinic, with mixed results. Conclusion: As screening recommendations evolve and become more nuanced with personalised screening, psychologists are well-placed to consider psychological factors, in conjunction with factors from other levels, that are helpful in understanding and changing screening behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1036-1072
Number of pages37
JournalPsychology and Health
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • cancer screening
  • interventions
  • review


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