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Title: Perceptions of cancer risk
Author: Robb, Kathryn A.
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis examines perceptions of risk for bowel cancer. Nationwide bowel screening will be introduced in the UK in April 2006. To achieve maximal uptake of screening it is essential that the population is sufficiently motivated to attend, and perceived risk is recognised as being the 'motivational engine' behind preventative behaviour. Studies 1-3 used data from the UK Flexible Sigmoidoscopy (FS) Trial to examine perceptions of bowel cancer risk. In Study 1 an optimistic bias was found. Being male and older were associated with lower perceived risk, while having a family history of bowel cancer, poorer subjective health, more symptoms and higher levels of anxiety were associated with increased perceived risk. Study 2 explored how perceived bowel cancer risk compared with risk status defined by findings at the FS test. A modest relationship was found between subjective and objective risk. Study 3 investigated how well the five factors identified by Weinstein (1984) explained the variance in perceived risk for bowel cancer, but found that only 8% of the variance was explained. The qualitative interviews in Study 4 found support for Weinstein's framework and provided information on how better to operationalise the framework. These measures were used in Study 5 and the variance explained increased to 18%. Study 6 was a randomised controlled trial assessing whether giving people simple, accurate information of bowel cancer and its risk factors i) increased knowledge of bowel cancer ii) reduced the optimistic bias associated with symptomatic status, family history, age and gender, and iii) increased interest in attending bowel screening. The intervention successfully increased knowledge, but failed to reduce optimistic beliefs or to increase interest above the high levels found in the control group. Future research should consider influences on perceived risk not accessible to self-report and how people draw conclusions from generic risk information.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available