The influence of family history on cognitive heuristics, risk perceptions, and prostate cancer screening behavior
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OBJECTIVE: To examine how family history of prostate cancer, risk perceptions, and heuristic decision strategies influence prostate cancer screening behavior. METHODS: Men with a first-degree family history of prostate cancer (FDRs; n = 207) and men without a family history (PM; n = 239) completed a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) examining prostate cancer risk perceptions, PSA testing behaviors, perceptions of similarity to the typical man who gets prostate cancer (representativeness heuristic), and availability of information about prostate cancer (availability heuristic). A path model explored family history as influencing the availability of information about prostate cancer (number of acquaintances with prostate cancer and number of recent discussions about prostate cancer) to mediate judgments of risk and to predict PSA testing behaviors and family history as a moderator of the relationship between representativeness (perceived similarity) and risk perceptions. RESULTS: FDRs reported greater risk perceptions and a greater number of PSA tests than did PM. Risk perceptions predicted increased PSA testing only in path models and was significant only for PM in multi-Group SEM analyses. Family history moderated the relationship between similarity perceptions and risk perceptions such that the relationship between these variables was significant only for FDRs. Recent discussions about prostate cancer mediated the relationships between family history and risk perceptions, and the number of acquaintances men knew with prostate cancer mediated the relationship between family history and PSA testing behavior. CONCLUSIONS: Family history interacts with the individuals' broader social environment to influence risk perceptions and screening behavior. Research into how risk perceptions develop and what primes behavior change is crucial to underpin psychological or public health intervention that seeks to influence health decision making.
Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology