Smoke Screen: Women Who Smoke Are Less Likely to Get Cancer Tests

Smoking and cancer screening: Chronic disease prevention for older women

    • February 28, 1999

From 1997 to 1998, researchers at Brown University School of Medicine, Providence, R.I., examined cigarette smoking as a barrier to cancer screening—both mammography and Pap tests—in women aged 40 to 75.

The primary objective was to identify factors that should be addressed in multiple-risk interventions designed to promote both appropriate cancer screening and smoking cessation.

The project involved two major activities: secondary analyses of National Health Interview Survey data from 1990 through 1994 and data collection from focus groups composed of smoking and non-smoking women.

Key Findings

  • The signature finding was that women who smoke undertake cancer screening less frequently than women who do not smoke.

  • Other findings correlated both women who live with other smokers and women who have fewer resources available to them (i.e., financial, formal education, social support) with less frequent cancer screenings.

  • Although the study did not examine the causal connections between smoking and cancer screening, the findings bolster the evidence of smoking's harmful effects on health.