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

Smoking and cancer screening: Chronic disease prevention for older women

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.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the study with a grant of $49,939 between July 1997 and June 1998.