The Relationship Between Health Literacy and Nonrecommended Cancer Screening
INTRODUCTION: Health literacy affects how patients behave within the healthcare system. Overutilization of screening procedures inconsistent with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines contributes to the high cost of health care. The authors hypothesize that higher health literacy supports guideline-concordant screening. This study assesses the effect of health literacy on nonrecommended prostate, breast, and cervical cancer screening in patients older than the recommended screening age limit. METHODS: The 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System included health literacy modules. Respondents self-reported their ability to obtain and understand health information, resulting in 4 health literacy rankings. The authors calculated the population-weighted proportion of respondents in each health literacy category who underwent screening past the Task Force‒recommended age limit. The ORs of nonrecommended screening for each malignancy were calculated, with low health literacy as the ref category. RESULTS: Individuals with higher health literacy underwent more nonrecommended screening. Nonrecommended prostate cancer screening was performed in 27.4% (95% CI=23.7%, 31.4%) and 47.7% (95% CI=44.1%, 51.3%) of respondents with low and high health literacy, respectively (p<0.001). Nonrecommended breast cancer screening was performed in 46.8% (95% CI=42.6%, 51.1%) and 67.7% (95% CI=64.2%, 71.1%) of respondents with low and high health literacy, respectively (p=0.002). Nonrecommended cervical cancer screening was performed in 33.8% (95% CI=31.1%, 36.5%) and 48.4% (95% CI=46.3%, 50.5%) of respondents with low and high health literacy, respectively (p<0.001). Individuals with high health literacy were significantly more likely than those with low health literacy to screen against the recommendations for prostate (OR=1.73, 95% CI=1.34, 2.23, p<0.001), cervical (OR=1.533, 95% CI=1.31, 1.80, p<0.001), and breast (OR=8.213, 95% CI=4.90, 13.76, p<0.001) cancer. CONCLUSIONS: Higher health literacy correlates with increased rates of screening beyond the recommended age, contrary to the study hypothesis. Breast cancer demonstrated the highest rates of nonrecommended screening.