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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Kentucky: Appalachian Cancer Interventions Should be Tailored to Each Community

With the knowledge that the elevated cancer burden experienced by Appalachian populations may be influenced by several factors – including lack of knowledge and negative beliefs about the disease – a group of investigators led by Dr. Robin C. Vanderpool of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and UK HealthCare Markey Cancer Center undertook a study including three National Cancer Institute (NCI)‐designated cancer centers with Appalachian counties in their respective population‐based geographic service areas. The results of their investigation appear in The Journal of Rural Health.

Covering regions of Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the Centers surveyed their communities to better understand their health profiles – including five items assessing cancer beliefs. Data from the combined Appalachian sample were compared to NCI’s Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS).

Significant differences were observed across the three Appalachian populations related to income, education, marital status, rurality, perceptions of present income, and body mass index (BMI). Four of five cancer beliefs were significantly different across the three states. Education, BMI, perceptions of financial security, and Kentucky residence were significantly associated with a lower composite score of cancer beliefs. When comparing the combined Appalachian population to HINTS, 3 of 5 cancer belief measures were significantly different. Variations in cancer beliefs were observed across the Appalachian populations in the three states.

The investigators conclude that interventions should be tailored to specific communities to improve cancer knowledge and beliefs and, ultimately, prevention and screening behaviors.