Open Access Open Badges Research article

Contextualising migrants’ health behaviour - a qualitative study of transnational ties and their implications for participation in mammography screening

Linnea Lue Kessing1*, Marie Norredam1, Ann-Britt Kvernrod2, Anna Mygind3 and Maria Kristiansen1

  • * Corresponding author: Linnea Lue Kessing

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Danish Research Centre for Migration, Ethnicity, and Health (MESU), Section for Health Services Research, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

2 Department for Cancer Prevention and Documentation, The Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen, Denmark

3 Section for Social Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:431  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-431

Published: 3 May 2013



Lower participation rates in mammography screening are common among migrant women compared to native-born women. Explanations of these lower rates have mainly been based on behavioural theories investigating how lack of knowledge, access to services and culture influence the screening behaviour. The aim of the present study was to contextualise screening behaviour by exploring migrants’ transnational ties and their influence on participation in mammography screening in Denmark.


The study is based on the analysis of qualitative interviews with 29 women residing in greater Copenhagen, Denmark and born in Somalia, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan and Arab-speaking countries.


We found that while women had knowledge about breast cancer and mammography screening, it was not prioritised. All women were embedded in transnational ties, which they struggled to retain through emotional and financial obligations, and these current struggles in their everyday life seemed to leave little room for concerns about breast cancer and therefore seemed to contribute to their lower participation in screening.


The study emphasises the need to take into account the multi-layered and multi-sided factors in migrants’ everyday life in order to further understand their health behaviour.

Migrant women; Mammography screening; Contextualised; Health and social issues; Transnational ties