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Informal caregiving is increasingly common as the U.S. population ages, and there is concern that caregivers are less likely than non-caregivers to practice health-promoting behaviors, including cancer screening. We examined caregiving effects on cancer risk behaviors and breast and cervical cancer screening in the 2009 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Women age ≥41 with data on breast and cervical cancer screening were included (weighted frequency 3,478,000 women). Cancer screening was classified according to American Cancer Society guidelines. We evaluated the association of caregiving with cancer risk behaviors (obesity, physical activity, alcohol intake, smoking status, and fruit/vegetable consumption) and cancer screening (mammography, clinical breast exam [CBE], and Pap test) using logistic regression overall and with stratification on age (<65, ≥65) or race (white, non-white).
Caregivers had greater odds of being obese, physically active, and current smokers. Subgroup analyses revealed that caregiving was associated with obesity in younger women and whites, and with less obesity in older women. Also, caregiving was associated with smoking only among younger women and non-whites. Caregivers had greater odds of ever having had a mammogram or CBE, yet there was no association with mammogram, CBE, or Pap test within guidelines.
Caregiving was associated with some health behaviors that increase cancer risk, yet not with cancer screening within guidelines. Effects of caregiving by age and race require confirmation by additional studies.