Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-13-2018


Introduction: Although cancer risk assessment for high-risk individuals and families can offer life-saving information and options for cancer risk management, Latinas have historically underutilized cancer prevention services. Much needed is a better understanding of what encourages and discourages engagement in cancer risk assessment services among Latino populations. Religiosity/spirituality is potentially relevant to such engagement given religion has often been a central coping resource for Latina cancer survivors.

Aim: This study explored the potential impact of religiosity/spirituality and psychological processes on how Latinas and non-Latinas approach decisions regarding preventative health behaviors.

Methods: As a small subset of a larger research project, a total of 49 women participated in a mixed-methods, two-part study. Participants were all females who had a personal history of breast cancer, were at increased risk for hereditary breast cancer, but had not received any cancer risk assessment counseling or genetic testing. In the first phase of this larger study, focus group participants (n = 13) offered their thoughts on how religion/spirituality impacts decisions to get cancer risk assessment. In the second phase, a different group of participants (n = 36) who were about to receive a pilot intervention to promote cancer risk assessment were asked about their religiosity, cancer worry, perceptions of cancer risk, and intentions for cancer risk assessment in a baseline survey conducted over the phone. Both quantitative and qualitative data were analyzed.

Results: Religion was significantly more salient for Latina women than for non-Latina women. Controlling for religious salience, Latina women had significantly lower intentions for cancer risk assessment. For Latina women, religious salience was negatively associated with intentions for cancer risk assessment, while for non-Latina women, it was positively associated, although this contrast was non-significant statistically. For women considering themselves at low risk for hereditary breast cancer, religious salience was negatively associated with intentions for cancer risk assessment, but for women considering themselves at high risk, religious salience was positively associated with intentions. However, this contrast was also non-significant.

Conclusion: This study offers mixed-methods evidence for the relevance and potential impact of religiosity on coping with cancer risk among Latina and non-Latina women, which can inform public health interventions. For those who consider religiosity/spirituality a salient and defining influence in their lives, encouraging positive and active religious coping to frame risk perceptions and to cope with cancer risk could be a promising approach to increase motivation for cancer risk assessment.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Steven Verney

Second Committee Member

Harold D. Delaney

Third Committee Member

Anita Y. Kinney

Fourth Committee Member

Lisa Cacari Stone




Cancer Prevention & Control, Genetic Testing, Hereditary Breast & Ovarian Cancer, Latina, Religion, Religious Coping

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