- LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0010
- LAST REVIEWED: 14 October 2016
- LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0010
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide, accounting for 7.4 million deaths in 2004. Early detection cancer screening is one of the more effective tools used to reduce cancer mortality, and it is estimated that a one-third cancer mortality reduction would occur with proper early detection. Cancer screening tests are designed to find cancers at an early stage, prior to the onset of symptoms, when the cancer is easier to treat. In some cases cancer screening for the cervix, colon, and rectum can identify precancerous cells, thus preventing the onset of cancer. This entry includes information for cancers where early detection tests currently exist: breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, oral cavity, and skin cancers. While there is a large literature regarding medical technologies used in diagnostic testing, the primary purpose of this entry is to engage issues related to population-based cancer screening. Increased efforts to understand screening use have been addressed in behavioral research that focuses on the role of risk perception, informed decision making, and barriers that may hinder the uptake of cancer screening. These studies have also brought questions about the uneven distribution of cancer incidence and mortality to the fore. Discussions of cancer disparities are intertwined with social processes that reveal disparities in access, sociohistorical inequalities, and assumptions of medical practitioners and screening. Efforts at increasing the uptake of screening to address cancer mortality in populations as a whole and the associated disparities are evident in the cancer screening interventions literature. Despite the desire to make screening interventions available to all people, the cost-effectiveness literature examines the need to implement these technologies based on the distribution of specific cancers as well as considerations of how to implement costly programs in low-income countries. It is also important to note that these tests are not without risks, as the invasiveness of some of the screening tests can increase physical risks. Other diagnostic risks include overdiagnosis, being falsely diagnosed with cancer (false positives), and not being diagnosed when there is cancer (false negatives) Moreover, for some cancers early detection does not improve the chance of a cure or longer life. The potential benefits of cancer screening in the reduction of cancer mortalities produce an imperative to make the utmost of the available medical technology. And yet, the social, cultural, economic, and psychological complexities of cancer screening have given rise to an equally complex and prolific literature that show cancer and cancer screening to be more than the sole implementation of medical technologies.
With well over 200 different types of cancer and a range of experiences across the cancer continuum (from biology, screening, and diagnosis to survivorship and bereavement) the body of literature on this topic is expansive. Many texts and articles tend to focus on one specific type of cancer or cancer in a specific population. A general perspective on cancer screening is often embedded in a conversation of the cancer continuum. The articles and texts in this section represent a sampling of key issues in cancer screening. These issues include screening guidelines, cost effectiveness, behavioral theory and inequality, and overdiagnosis. World Health Organization 2005 provides global cancer rates and lists screening efforts. Smith, et al. 2010 reviews current screening guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS). Contributors to Greenwald, et al. 1995 examine the broad issues in cancer prevention and control. Miller, et al. 2009 is a more recent publication that evaluates and examines basic constructs in behavioral theory across the cancer continuum. Coleman, et al. 2008 reports on cancer rates in Europe, focusing on efforts to reduce mortality from the disease and the risks associated with screening. Breen and Meissner 2005 provides a review with a focus on social and institutional systemic factors that influence screening. Barratt, et al. 2002 has a glossary of key terms in cancer screening. World Health Organization 2002 provides an international resource on policies for screening programs. Welch and Black 2010 examines issues associated with overdiagnosis and potential diagnostic risk and harms associated with cancer screening.
Barratt, A., P. Mannes, L. Irwig, L. Trevena, J. Craig, and L. Rychetnik. 2002. Cancer screening. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56:899–902.
Provides a concise glossary of terms used in the cancer screening literature. Topics include false negative, false positive, sensitivity, relative risk reduction, and informed participation.
Breen, Nancy, and Helen I. Meissner. 2005. Toward a system of cancer screening in the United States: Trends and opportunities. Annual Review of Public Health 26:561–582.
Examines patient, physician, and systemic factors that influence the uptake of cancer screening services. In an effort to address the uneven access and efforts at increasing screening, the authors provide suggestions at the clinical and health-plan level that will work toward increasing screening and maintain their cost-effectiveness.
Coleman, Michel P., Delia-Marina Alexe, Tit Albreht, and Martin McKee. 2008. Responding to the challenge of cancer in Europe. Ljubljana, Slovenia: Institute of Public Health of the Republic of Slovenia.
This report covers the scope of cancer incidence, screening, diagnosis, and survivorship in Europe. The chapter on cancer screening is useful for examining the mechanisms of screening technologies, risks, and associated issues with overdiagnosis.
Greenwald, Peter, Barnett S. Kramer, and Douglas L Weed, eds. 1995. Cancer prevention and control. New York: M. Dekker.
This edited volume is among the earlier texts to examine the emergence of cancer prevention and control as a specific focus for research and knowledge production. Contributors examine issues ranging from methods, the uneven distribution of the cancer burden, basic biological issues in cancer, prevention and screening, and health communication.
Miller, Suzanne M., Deborah J. Bowen, Robert T. Croyle, and Julia H. Rowland, eds. 2009. Handbook of cancer control and behavioral science: A resource for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Contributors to this volume examine facets of cancer from primary prevention to early detection, treatment, survivorship, and grief. Sections on cancer screening examine the current state of knowledge in behavioral science and cultural contexts that influence the uptake of detection technologies.
Smith, Robert A, Vilma Cokkinides, Durado Brooks, Debbie Saslow, and Otis W. Brawley. 2010. Cancer screening in the United States, 2010: A review of current American Cancer Society guidelines and issues in cancer screening. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 60.2: 99–119.
This journal provides a yearly update on cancer screening recommendations from the American Cancer Society. The 2010 update has a more detailed focus on breast cancer screening that reflects current debates on screening risks and recommended age to begin screening.
Welch, H. Gilbert, and William C. Black. 2010. Overdiagnosis in cancer. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 102.9: 605–613.
Defines overdiagnosis in cancer screening. Reviews studies showing the occurrence of overdiagnosis, particularly in breast, prostate, and lung cancers. Provides suggestions for how to remedy the problem.
World Health Organization. 2002. National cancer control programmes: Policies and managerial guidelines. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
Resource provides information on global cancer rates, prevention, screening, diagnosis, and care. Maps out issues to consider when implementing early detection programs.
World Health Organization. 2005. Global action against cancer now! Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
Short article that provides global cancer incidence and mortality rates. Outlines available screening mechanisms and some of the available programs across different countries.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Access to Health Care
- Action Research
- Active Aging
- Active Living
- Adolescent Risk-Taking Behavior in the United States
- Advocacy, Public Health
- Agricultural Safety and Public Health
- Air Quality: Health Effects
- Air Quality: Indoor Health Effects
- Alcohol Availability and Violence
- Alternative Research Designs
- Ambient Air Quality Standards and Guidelines
- American Perspectives on Chronic Disease and Control
- Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
- Asthma in Children
- Attachment as a Health Determinant
- Behavior Change Theory in Health Education and Promotion
- Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance
- Bicycling and Cycling Safety
- Birth and Death Registration
- Birth Cohort Studies
- Board of Health
- Built Environment and Health, The
- Business and Corporate Practices
- Cancer Communication Strategies in North America
- Cancer Prevention
- Cancer Screening
- Capacity Building
- Capacity Building for NCDs in LMICs
- Capacity-Building for Applied Public Health in LMIC: A US ...
- Cardiovascular Health and Disease
- Child Maltreatment
- Children, Air Pollution and
- Children, Injury Risk-Taking Behaviors in
- Children, Obesity in
- Citizen Advisory Boards
- Climate Change and Human Health
- Climate Change: Institutional Response
- Clinical Preventive Medicine
- Community Air Pollution
- Community Development
- Community Gardens
- Community Health Assessment
- Community Partnerships and Coalitions
- Community-Based Participatory Research
- Complexity and Systems Theory
- Definition of Health
- Dental Public Health
- Design and Health
- Dietary Guidelines
- Ecological Approaches
- Enabling Factors
- Environmental Laws
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Ethics of Public Health
- Evidence-Based Public Health Practice
- Family Planning Services and Birth Control
- Food Safety
- Food Security and Food Banks
- Food Systems
- Frail Elderly
- Functional Literacy
- Genomics, Public Health
- Geographic Information Systems
- Geography and Health
- Global Health
- Global Health Diplomacy
- Global Health Promotion
- Guide to Community Preventive Services, The
- Health Administration
- Health Communication
- Health Disparities
- Health Education
- Health Impact Assessment
- Health in All Policies
- Health in All Policies in European Countries
- Health Literacy
- Health Literacy and Non-Communicable Diseases
- Health Measurement Scales
- Health Planning
- Health Promoting Hospitals
- Health Promotion
- Health Promotion Workforce Capacity
- Healthy People Initiative
- Hepatitis C
- High Risk Prevention Strategies
- Human Rights, Health and
- Immigrant Populations
- Immunization and Pneumococcal Infection
- Indigenous Peoples, Public Health and
- Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and ...
- Indoor Air Quality Guidelines
- Internet Applications in Promoting Health Behavior
- Intersectoral Strategies in Low - Middle Income Countries ...
- Justice, Social
- Knowledge Translation and Exchange
- Knowledge Utilization and Exchange
- Law of Public Health in the United States
- Media Advocacy
- Mental Health
- Mental Health Promotion
- Migrant Health
- Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention
- Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
- National Association of Local Boards of Health
- National Public Health Institutions
- Needs Assessment
- Obesity Prevention
- Occupational Cancers
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Ottawa Charter
- Parenting and Work
- Parenting Skills and Capacity
- Participatory Action Research
- Patient Decision Making
- Pesticide Exposure and Pesticide Health Effects
- Physical Activity and Exercise
- Physical Activity Promotion
- Polio Eradication in Pakistan
- Population Aging
- Population Determinants of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages
- Population Health Objectives and Targets
- Precautionary Principle
- Prenatal Health
- Program Evaluation in American Health Education
- Program Planning and Evaluation
- Public Health, History of
- Public Health Surveillance
- Public-Private Partnerships in Public Health Research and ...
- Public-Private Partnerships to Prevent and Manage Obesity ...
- Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment
- Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies
- Randomized Controlled Trials
- Real World Evaluation Strategies
- Reducing Obesity-Related Health Disparities in Hispanic an...
- Rural Health in the United States
- Safety, Patient
- Sex Education in HIV/AIDS Prevention
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Smoking Cessation
- Social Determinants of Health
- Social Epidemiology
- Social Marketing
- Statistics in Public Health
- Systems in the United States, Public Health
- Systems Theory in Public Health
- Traditional, Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative M...
- Translation of Science to Practice and Policy
- Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Tuberculosis among Adults and the Determinants of Health
- Unintentional Injury Prevention
- Urban Health
- Vaccine Hesitancy
- Violence Prevention
- Water Quality
- Water Quality and Water-Related Disease
- Weight Management in US Occupational Settings
- Worksite Health Promotion