Association of time intervals in cancer screenings and older participants' characteristics, in a nationally representative sample

Published:November 04, 2022DOI:



      Health agencies and guidelines have proposed various recommendations regarding breast and prostate cancer screening intervals for older adults. However, there is limited data about factors that could impact older individuals' adherence to these guideline-based intervals. This study emphasized the differences in screening rates between men and women undergoing screening for breast (mammogram) and prostate (prostate-specific antigen [PSA] test) cancer. It also investigated the socio-demographic and emotional factors associated with screening time intervals.

      Materials and Methods

      This cross-sectional design study used data from the National Social Life Health and Aging Project Wave 3 (NSHAP-W3, 2015). The outcome measures were screening time intervals (PSA test or mammogram). Individuals were asked, “About how long has it been since you last had a screening?” Response categories ranged from 1 = within the past year to 5 = never. Differences in screening time intervals were evaluated and displayed by age group (PSA vs. mammogram). The association between the outcome measures and participants' characteristics was evaluated via ordinal logistic regression.


      There were 2320 participants included: 52% women and 48% men. They had a mean age of 66.9 years old, were mostly White (74%) and college graduates (68%). The average time interval between screenings was greater for PSA testing than mammography (mean [M] = 2.28 vs. M = 1.89, p < 0.001). The middle age groups (PSA: 60–79 and mammogram: 65–74), had significantly more frequent screenings compared to the youngest group (50–54). In contrast, older (80+) individuals did not display shorter screening time intervals compared to the youngest group. Furthermore, shorter time intervals between screenings were associated with higher household income (mammogram: odds ratio [OR] = 0.804; PSA: OR = 0.785, p < 0.05), African American descent (mammogram: OR = 0.458, p < 0.001), and higher frequency of physical activity (PSA: OR = 0.921, p = 0.030). Lastly, women who responded “yes” to skipping care due to lack of insurance reported longer periods between mammograms (OR = 1.784, p = 0.002).


      Findings from this real-world US population representative database highlight the role of age, income, and insurance in the timing between screenings; participants aged between 60 and 79 years old, African American women, and physically active men are more likely to pursue earlier screening. These results emphasize the importance of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors when seeking to impact screening timing.


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