Candidate for the Lee B. Lusted Student Prize Competition
Purpose: To investigate the contribution of the availability and representativeness heuristics in explaining the relationships between risk perceptions and screening behaviour for men with and without a family history.
Method: First-degree relatives of men with prostate cancer (n=207) and men without a family history of prostate cancer (n=239) from Queensland, Australia completed a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) examining prostate cancer risk perceptions, screening behaviours, the availability of information about prostate cancer (availability heuristic), and men’s perceptions of their similarity to the typical man who gets prostate cancer (representativeness heuristic). The relationships between heuristics and family history, risk perceptions, and screening behaviour were examined in a path model based on previous research and theoretical considerations.
Result: Men with a family history reported greater risk perceptions and greater prostate cancer screening behaviour than did men without a family history. However, risk perceptions did not predict prostate cancer screening. Analyses examined a path model incorporating the representativeness and availability heuristics as a moderator and as mediators, respectively, for the relationships between family history, risk perceptions and screening behaviour. A multiple-group structural equation model comparing path models for men with and without a family history of prostate cancer found that the relationship between perceived similarity to the typical man with prostate cancer and greater risk perceptions was moderated by family history such that this relationship was greater for the family history group. Analysis of mediation pathways revealed that the number of recent discussions about prostate cancer acted as a mediator of the relationships between family history and risk perceptions, and that the number of acquaintances men knew with prostate cancer mediated the relationship between family history and screening behaviour.
Conclusion: Despite reporting greater perceptions of risk for developing prostate cancer, men with a family history do not necessarily participate in prostate cancer screening as a result of having high risk perceptions. Rather, men with a family history make judgements about prostate cancer risk and screening behaviours based on the availability of information about prostate cancer within their environment.