Colorectal cancer information avoidance is associated with screening adherence

Heather Orom, Nolan E. Ramer, Natasha C. Allard, Amy McQueen, Erika Waters, Marc T. Kiviniemi, Jennifer L. Hay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the fourth most common cancer among U.S. men and women and the second deadliest. Effective screening modalities can either prevent CRC or find it earlier, but fewer than two thirds of U.S. adults are adherent to CRC screening guidelines. We tested whether people who defensively avoid CRC information have lower adherence to CRC screening recommendations and weaker intentions for being screened and whether CRC information avoidance adds predictive ability beyond known determinants of screening. Participants, aged 45–75 years, completed a survey about known structural determinants of CRC screening (healthcare coverage, healthcare use, provider recommendation), CRC information avoidance tendencies, and screening behavior (n = 887) and intentions (n = 425). Models were tested with multivariable regression and structural equation modeling (SEM). To the extent that participants avoided CRC information, they had lower odds of being adherent to CRC screening guidelines (OR = 0.55) and if non-adherent, less likely to intend to be screened (b=-0.50). In the SEM model, avoidance was negatively associated with each known structural determinant of screening and with lower screening adherence (ps < 0.01). Fit was significantly worse for nested SEM models when avoidance was not included, (i.e., the paths to avoidance were fixed to zero). Information avoidance was associated with screening behavior and other known structural determinants of screening adherence, potentially compounding its influence. Novel strategies are needed to reach avoiders, including health communication messaging that disrupts avoidance and interventions external to the healthcare system, with which avoiders are less engaged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-514
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Colorectal neoplasm
  • Defensive mechanisms
  • Early detection of cancer
  • Information avoidance
  • Intention


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