Knowledge of Oral Cancer Risk Factors Among African Americans: Do Nurses Have a Role?

Barbara D. Powe

Ramona Finnie

ONF 2004, 31(4), 785-791. DOI: 10.1188/04.ONF.785-791

Purpose/Objectives: To assess the knowledge of oral cancer risk factors among African Americans.

Design: Descriptive; guided by the Patient/Provider/System Theoretical Model for cancer screening.

Setting: Community-based primary care center in a southern state.

Sample: 141 African Americans. The majority was female, had a 12th grade education, and had an income less than $10,000; 25% were smokers.

Methods: Participants were asked to identify whether each of 15 factors (i.e., seven risk factors and eight nonrisk factors) increased risk for oral cancer. One point was added for each correct response; therefore, scores could range from 0-15 points. Demographic data were collected.

Main Research Variables: Knowledge of and misconceptions about oral cancer.

Findings: Only six participants correctly identified all of the risk factors. The majority recognized tobacco but was not as aware of the effects of the sun, alcohol, and diet. Many erroneously identified factors such as hot beverages, poor oral hygiene, spicy foods, dentures, and mouthwash as risk factors. Those with higher incomes and those who visited their dentists in the prior year had more knowledge of risk factors. No differences were found in knowledge based on age, gender, education, or smoking status.

Conclusions: Some patients are less likely to routinely visit a dentist and are less knowledgeable about the risk factors for oral cancer. Many of these risk factors are modifiable; therefore, patients need to be aware of the risks and have access to effective strategies to reduce risk.

Implications for Nursing: Assess risk factors, teach risk reduction, and correct misinformation. Refer patients to dental professionals. Develop community outreach to African American men at barbershops and fraternal organizations.

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