Food security status and breast cancer screening among women in the United States: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study and Health Care and Nutrition Study


Purpose: To assess the impact of food insecurity on biennial breast cancer screenings (i.e., mammography or breast X-ray) among older women in the United States (US). Methods: Data from the 2014 and 2016 waves of the Health and Retirement Study and the 2013 Health Care and Nutrition Study were used. The analyses were limited to a nationally representative sample of 2,861 women between 50 and 74 years of age, residing in the US. We employed a propensity score weighting method to balance observed confounders between food-secure and food-insecure women and fit a binary logistic regression to investigate population-level estimates for the association between food security and breast cancer screening. Results: Food insecurity was significantly associated with failure to obtain a mammogram or breast X-ray within the past two years. Food-insecure women had 54% lower odds of reporting breast cancer screening in the past 2 years (adjusted OR = 0.46; 95% CI 0.30–0.70, p-value < 0.001) as compared to food-secure women. Additional factors associated with a higher likelihood of receiving breast cancer screenings included greater educational attainment, higher household income, regular access to health care/advice, not smoking, and not being physically disabled or experiencing depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Results demonstrate a socioeconomic gradient existing in regard to the utilization of regular breast cancer screenings among women. Those who tend to have lower education, lower income, and lack of reliable healthcare access are more likely to be food insecure. Thus, more likely to face the financial, logistical, or environmental barriers in obtaining screening services that accompany food insecurity.

Publication Title

Cancer Causes and Control