Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Development of a scale to assess cancer stigma in the non-patient population

Laura AV Marlow* and Jane Wardle

Author Affiliations

Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:285  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-285

Published: 23 April 2014



Illness-related stigma has attracted considerable research interest, but few studies have specifically examined stigmatisation of cancer in the non-patient population. The present study developed and validated a Cancer Stigma Scale (CASS) for use in the general population.


An item pool was developed on the basis of previous research into illness-related stigma in the general population and patients with cancer. Two studies were carried out. The first study used Exploratory factor analysis to explore the structure of items in a sample of 462 postgraduate students recruited through a London university. The second study used Confirmatory factor analysis to confirm the structure among 238 adults recruited through an online market research panel. Internal reliability, test-retest reliability and construct validity were also assessed.


Exploratory factor analysis suggested six subscales, representing: Awkwardness, Severity, Avoidance, Policy Opposition, Personal Responsibility and Financial Discrimination. Confirmatory factor analysis confirmed this structure with a 25-item scale. All subscales showed adequate to good internal and test-retest reliability in both samples. Construct validity was also good, with mean scores for each subscale varying in the expected directions by age, gender, experience of cancer, awareness of lifestyle risk factors for cancer, and social desirability. Means for the subscales were consistent across the two samples.


These findings highlight the complexity of cancer stigma and provide the Cancer Stigma Scale (CASS) which can be used to compare populations, types of cancer and evaluate the effects of interventions designed to reduce cancer stigma in non-patient populations.

CASS; Cancer; Scale; Measure; Blame; Attitudes