November 24, 2020 | Press Release

Breast Cancer: Knowledge About Screenings Does Not Change Prevention Behavior


The more informed you are, the better decisions you make, right? Research scientist Peter Eibich investigated whether women in the EU are more likely to have a breast cancer screening as a result of having been informed about the examination and treatment as part of an appointment invitation. Turns out, that is not the case.

Why do women decide to go to a breast cancer screening? Peter Eibich, research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany, and a colleague investigated this question regarding women between the ages of 50 and 69 living in the European Union.

Women usually receive informational material with the appointment invitation to a breast cancer screening, which improves their knowledge of prevention and treatment options. Nevertheless, the number of women who go to a screening seems to be unaffected by this supplementary information. “Knowledge alone does not ensure that more women go for a screening,” says Peter Eibich.

Eurobarometer data evaluated

For their analyses, the researchers used survey data from the European Union’s Eurobarometer for the years 1997 and 1998. The Eurobarometer surveys are conducted regularly in all EU member states, but specific questions on knowledge about breast cancer screening were only asked in the two years. “Although the data are somewhat older, I am convinced that they are generally valid and applicable to today’s situation,” says Peter Eibich. The researcher and his colleague published their study in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

In most of the countries studied, the proportion of women who go for a breast cancer screening is already relatively high. In recent years, invitations have made a major contribution to this. “However, the enclosed additional information on prevention and treatment has played a very minor role,” says Peter Eibich. Other factors, whose influence the researchers cannot yet determine, appear to be much more important, he says. “These could include, for example, existing offers for inexpensive or free examinations,” adds Eibich.

Original publication

Eibich, P., Goldzahl, L.: Health information provision, health knowledge and health behaviours: Evidence from breast cancer screening. Social Science & Medicine (2020) DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113505

Authors and Affilliations

Peter Eibich: Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung, Rostock

Léontine Goldzahl: EDHEC Business School

Author of the paper

Deputy Head Research Group Labor Demographie

Peter Eibich


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The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.