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Unformatted text preview: Biased Cognitive Processing of Cancer-Related Information Among Women With Family Histories of Breast Cancer: Evidence From a Cancer Stroop Task Joel Erblich, Guy H. Montgomery, and Heiddis B. Valdimarsdottir Mount Sinai School of Medicine Marylene Cloitre Weill Medical College of Cornell University Dana H. Bovbjerg Mount Sinai School of Medicine Stimuli associated with sources of stress have been shown to interfere with cognition. The authors hypothesized that women with the stress of having a family history of breast cancer (FH 1 ) would exhibit greater interference on a task with cancer-related stimuli than women without cancer in the family (FH 2 ). The authors developed a modified Stroop color-naming task to test this hypothesis in a sample of FH 1 ( n 5 72) and FH 2 ( n 5 96) women. Consistent with the hypotheses, FH 1 women had longer color-naming times and more errors ( p s , .01) on a cancer word list relative to noncancer lists. This biased processing was not mediated by the significantly higher perceived risk, general distress, or cancer-specific distress in FH 1 women. Maladaptive alterations in processing cancer stimuli may have important clinical implications, as these women must process complex cancer-related information critical to their health (e.g., options for chemoprevention, screening). Key words: breast cancer, cognitive bias, family history, psychological distress, Stroop Breast cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer among women. Current estimates suggest that one out of every eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point during her lifetime (American Cancer Society, 2002). At even higher risk of developing breast cancer are women with family histories of the disease, increasingly recognized as a major predictor of personal risk (Pharoah, Day, Duffy, Easton, & Ponder, 1997). Having even a single first-degree relative with breast cancer can double a womans risk, which is increased still further by a history of the disease in additional relatives, particularly if diag- nosed at younger ages (Bennet, Howell, Evans, & Birch, 2002; Pharoah et al., 1997). Healthy women, especially those with family histories of breast cancer, are increasingly faced with large quantities of complex information about their risk and the utility of various screening options for the disease (e.g., Peshkin, DeMarco, Brogan, Lerman, & Isaacs, 2001). The integration of such information, including their personal risk for developing breast cancer by a certain age and the implications of choices regarding breast self-examination, mammography, and clinical breast examination (how to perform these, at what age, and at what frequency) is increasingly the responsibility of the individual, as guidelines from medical author- ities have been challenged (Arnold, 2002; Holmberg, Ekbom, Calle, Mokdad, & Byers, 1997; Josefson, 2002). The decisions required of individuals at risk for cancer have major implications for their health and quality of life. For example, recent biomedicalfor their health and quality of life....
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