Alternative Title

Cancer Worry

Abstract

Cancer worry is the affective and cognitive evaluation an individual has to the perceived risk of developing cancer. It has gained attention in the cancer prevention literature because it is demonstrated to influence risk-reducing behaviors (e.g., screening), yet associations between cancer worry and behavior are unclear due to substantial measurement issues. A notable gap in the measurement of cancer worry is the lack of dependability evidence, or short-term retest in which no change in cancer worry is expected. This study addressed two critical issues in the dependability of cancer worry measures: (1) estimating the dependability of cancer worry measures and (2) examining the extent to which state affect is associated with cancer worry responses. In addition, the association with cancer information seeking was explored. TurkPrime was used to collect responses from 621 U.S. adults at two timepoints separated by one week. Measures included cancer worry (eighteen measures), affect (PANAS-X State Negative and Positive Affect, STAI Trait Anxiety, BFI-2-Neuroticism), information seeking, cancer history, and abnormal screening history. One week retention rate was 82%. Results indicated that the dependability of cancer worry measures was less than ideal and variable (.61-.81; mean=.73). Discriminant validity of cancer worry measures from trait negative affect measures (.26-.42; trait anxiety mean=.33; neuroticism mean=.36) and from state negative affect measures (21-.44; mean=.31) ranged from adequate to excessive. Multilevel models indicated that being in a worse mood than normal was not broadly associated with cancer worry responses, whereas higher average levels of negative mood were associated with higher cancer worry responses on all cancer worry measures. Positive mood was not associated with cancer worry responses. Exploratory analyses suggested that information seeking may increase, decrease, or have no effect on cancer worry responses. Additional findings suggested that the presence of a family cancer history or abnormal cancer screening history may be associated with higher cancer worry responses. Overall, cancer worry measures have greater levels of error than ideal, yet state positive and negative affect do not appear to be substantial sources of transient error. Alternative sources of error may include the lack of instruction sets, very brief measure length, and varying measure content. Further psychometric improvements and creation of a new cancer worry measure will advance the theory and science of cancer worry.

Degree Date

Summer 8-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

Advisor

Austin Baldwin

Second Advisor

Michael Chmielewski

Third Advisor

Nathan Hudson

Fourth Advisor

Jasmin Tiro

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Number of Pages

108

Available for download on Monday, December 07, 2026

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