Cancer Literature Emphasizing Racial Disparity May Backfire

Literature discourages readers if racial disparities are emphasized
By Lisa Cockrell, PhD
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Black patients reported negative emotional reactions and were less likely to desire colorectal cancer screening after reading articles emphasizing racial disparities in cancer, according to an article published in the November issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

Robert A. Nicholson, Ph.D., of Saint Louis University, and colleagues performed a randomized, double-blind study to determine if literature comparing cancer-specific racial information elicited unintended negative consequences. Participants included 300 black patients with no previous colorectal cancer. Mock news articles were prepared containing the same information framed four ways: impact (colorectal cancer is an important problem in blacks); current disparity (blacks are doing worse than whites); disparity over time (blacks are improving less than whites); and progress (blacks are improving over time). Articles were randomly distributed to participants, who completed a survey immediately after reading it. Responses from both disparity groups were combined.

Participants in the progress arm reported more positive emotional response, while those in the disparity arms displayed more negative emotional response, the researchers note. Additionally, participants in the disparity arms were significantly less likely to want to be screened for colorectal cancer, while the progress article elicited a greater desire to undergo screening, the report indicates.

"Cancer communication messages that include race-specific data for African-Americans will be better received and have greater impact when they emphasize the progress African-Americans are making," the authors write.

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