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Culturally customized cancer screening programs improve cancer screening rates

Escriba-Aguir V, Rodriguez-Gomez M, Ruiz-Perez I. Effectiveness of patient-targeted interventions to promote cancer screening among ethnic minorities: A systematic review Cancer Epidemiol. 2016;44:22-39.

Review Question

Do culturally customized cancer screening programs for ethnic minority groups increase the number of people who are screened for cancer?


Minority populations and underserved communities are more likely experience social and economic challenges that make it difficult to access health education services, which can negatively impact their health. Screening can detect cancer early, increasing the chance of successful treatment. Those with difficulties accessing health services are less likely to participate in cancer screenings. Culturally customized health education materials may help improve screening rates.

How the review was done

This is a systematic review of 17 studies: 14 randomized controlled trials and 3 quasi-experimental studies. The number of participants in individual studies ranged from 65 to 5605. Almost all of the studies (16 of 17) were based in the United States. Nine studies were moderate to high quality.

Key features of the studies were:

  • All studies involved people in specific ethnic groups; most identified as African American, Latino or Asian.
  • Participants received culturally customized cancer screening materials and/or peer education and support.
  • The customized health education approaches included group education, one-on-one education, small media (videos, brochures) and reminders. Some of the programs also offered free tests, materials or reimbursement of costs related to screening.
  • Cancer screening education focused on colorectal cancer (6 studies), breast cancer (4 studies), cervical cancer (3 studies), and both breast and cervical cancer (3 studies). One study focused on breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer.
  • Researchers measured knowledge, awareness and attitudes about cancer screening, as well as screening rates.
  • Results were compared to control groups who received the usual care, general (non-customized) education and non-peer facilitation

 What the researchers found

Culturally customized programs help to increase cancer screening rates for people in ethnic minority groups. This approach also appears to improve knowledge, awareness, intentions and beliefs about cancer and screening. Peer-based education and support and patient reminders enhance the effectiveness of culturally customized cancer screening approaches.


Culturally customized cancer screening programs increase participation in cancer screening.



Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

  • Breast cancer: Risks and benefits, age 50-69

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Your risk of dying from breast cancer is slightly reduced if you have regular screening. However, regular screening increases your chance of a false positive result, a biopsy and having part or all of a breast removed unnecessarily.
  • Breast cancer: Patient algorithm

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends women between 50 and 74 years old who are not at high risk get screened for breast cancer every 2 to 3 years. Talk to your doctor about screening options if you are at high risk or over 74 years old.
  • Breast cancer: Patient FAQ

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    This resource includes frequently asked questions about breast cancer, including: Who is considered high risk? What are the harms associated with mammography? and Why is routine screening NOT recommended for women 40-49 years?
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