Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Demographic, social cognitive and social ecological predictors of intention and participation in screening for colorectal cancer

Tess A Gregory12*, Carlene Wilson23, Amy Duncan1, Deborah Turnbull1, Stephen R Cole24 and Graeme Young2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, 5000, Australia

2 Flinders Centre for Cancer Prevention and Control, Flinders University, Bedford Park, 5042, Australia

3 CSIRO, Preventative Health Research Flagship, Adelaide, 5000, Australia

4 Bowel Health Service, Repatriation General Hospital, Daw Park, 5041, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-38

Published: 14 January 2011



Previous research points to differences between predictors of intention to screen for colorectal cancer (CRC) and screening behavior, and suggests social ecological factors may influence screening behavior. The aim of this study was to compare the social cognitive and social ecological predictors of intention to screen with predictors of participation.


People aged 50 to 74 years recruited from the electoral roll completed a baseline survey (n = 376) and were subsequently invited to complete an immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT).


Multivariate analyses revealed five predictors of intention to screen and two predictors of participation. Perceived barriers to CRC screening and perceived benefits of CRC screening were the only predictor of both outcomes. There was little support for social ecological factors, but measurement problems may have impacted this finding.


This study has confirmed that the predictors of intention to screen for CRC and screening behaviour, although overlapping, are not the same. Research should focus predominantly on those factors shown to predict participation. Perceptions about the barriers to screening and benefits of screening are key predictors of participation, and provide a focus for intervention programs.