Older Adults Using the Internet are More Likely to
Engage in Cancer Prevention Behavior
One exception: no association between internet use
and participation in breast cancer screening
Oct. 22, 2013 - Congratulations to you readers of
SeniorJournal.com. A new study finds that men and women who use the
internet – that is you – are more likely to participate in screening for
colorectal cancer, participate in physical activities, eat healthily,
and smoke less, compared with those who do not use the internet.
The study published in Cancer Epidemiology,
Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for
Cancer Research, collected data from men and women aged 50 or older, and
found that men and women who were consistent internet users were twice
as likely to participate in colorectal screening as nonusers.
Both men and women who used the internet
consistently were also 50 percent more likely to take part in regular
physical activity, 24 percent more likely to eat at least five servings
of fruits and vegetables daily, and 44 percent less likely to be current
There was, however, no association between internet
use and participation in breast cancer screening among women.
The participants in this large, population-based,
cohort study were older adults in England, called the English
Longitudinal Study of Aging.
"We accounted for socio-demographic factors that
influence internet use and various measures of physical capabilities and
cognitive function that decline with age, and still found an association
between internet use and cancer-preventive behaviors," said Christian
von Wagner, Ph.D., senior lecturer in behavioral research in early
diagnosis of cancer at the University College London, United Kingdom.
"The interesting aspect here is a dose-response
relationship between internet use and cancer preventive-behaviors:
Intermittent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors
than never-users, and consistent users were more likely to have
cancer-preventive behaviors than intermittent users."
Von Wagner and colleagues, however, identified a
"digital divide." Internet use was higher in younger, male, white,
wealthier, and more educated participants and lower in older, less
wealthy, and nonwhite individuals with physical disabilities. "It is
important that policymakers recognize the role internet use plays in
influencing inequalities in cancer outcomes, and help increase access to
the internet among this demographic," he said.
The researchers used data from 5,943 respondents
who answered questions collected in wave one in 2002, and were followed
up with questions every two years in waves two to five, until 2011.
Questions included internet/email use, self-reported colorectal and
breast cancer screening, physical activity, eating habits, physical and
cognitive abilities, and demographics.
Among the study participants, 41.4 percent reported
not using the internet, 38.3 percent reported using the internet in
waves one to three (intermittent users), and 20.3 percent reported using
the internet in all five waves (consistent users).
This study was funded by the Brazilian agency
CAPES, a Cancer Research U.K. program grant, and a medical research
council studentship. The opinions, results, and conclusions reported in
this paper are those of the authors and are independent from the funding
About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for
Cancer Research (AACR) is the world's oldest and largest professional
organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to
prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000
laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population
scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates
residing in more than 90 countries. For more information about the AACR,