Attitudes and beliefs of non-participants in a population-based screening programme for colorectal cancer

Nicola J. Hall*, Greg P. Rubin, Christina Dobson, David Weller, Jane Wardle, Mary Ritchie, Colin J. Rees

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Uptake of colorectal cancer screening programmes needs to be improved or at least maintained in order to achieve projected reductions in mortality and morbidity. Understanding the origins of non-participation in screening is therefore important.

Objective To explore the beliefs and experiences of individuals who had not responded either to their screening invitation or reminder.

Design A qualitative study using in-depth interviews with non-participants from England's population-based colorectal cancer screening programme. Data collection and analysis were carried out using a grounded theory approach, with an emphasis on the constant comparison method, and continued until saturation (27 interviews).

Findings The interviews provided an in-depth understanding of a range of reasons and circumstances surrounding non-participation in screening, including contextual and environmental influences as well as factors specific to the screening test. Non-participation in screening was not necessarily associated with negative attitudes towards screening or a decision to not return a kit. Reasons for non-participation in screening included not feeling that participation is personally necessary, avoiding or delaying decision making, and having some degree of intention to take part but failing to do so because of practicalities, conflicting priorities or external circumstances. Beliefs, awareness and intention change over time.

Discussion and conclusions A range of approaches may be required to improve screening uptake. Some non-participants may already have a degree of intention to take part in screening in the future, and this group may be more responsive to interventions based on professional endorsement, repeat invitations, reminders and aids to making the test more practical.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1645-1657
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number5
Early online date25 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • attitudes
  • behaviour
  • beliefs
  • bowel cancer screening
  • colorectal cancer screening non-participation
  • UK


Dive into the research topics of 'Attitudes and beliefs of non-participants in a population-based screening programme for colorectal cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this