Women born outside US less likely to have ever had a mammogram

Women born outside the U.S.—but currently living there—are less likely to have had a mammogram compared to their U.S.-born counterparts, according to new research published Oct. 9 in National Health Statistics Reports

The researchers also found that this pattern slightly changed based on where a woman was born. Lead author Tainya Clarke, PhD, MPH, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and colleagues said more effort is needed to better communicate the importance of breast cancer screening to foreign-born women. 

“Compared with their U.S.-born counterparts, foreign-born women often experience an elevated cancer risk because of lifestyle changes associated with living in the United States,” Clarke and co-authors wrote. “Understanding the screening experience of foreign-born women compared with U.S.-born women is important because immigrant women may not be exposed to the same level of public health messaging or screening opportunities in their home countries.”

More than 50% of the 43.7 million foreign-born people living in the U.S. are female—that figure is only expected to grow, the researchers explained. However, few studies have investigated a possible connection between mammography utilization and the birthplace of foreign-born women; fewer have looked into time living in the U.S. as a factor impacting mammography rates.

Clarke and colleagues analyzed data from 29,951 women ages 50 to 74 years old who completed the 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013, and 2015 National Health Interview Survey. The team adjusted for selected demographic, socioeconomic, and healthcare access and utilization factors.

Results showed that 88.3% of foreign-born women were likely to have ever had a mammogram, compared to 94.1% of their U.S-born peers. Those born outside the U.S., but living in it for less than a quarter of their lifetime, were less likely to have had an exam (76.4%) or to meet United States Preventative Services Task Force recommendations (55%) compared to U.S.-born women.

Additionally, women from Spanish-speaking regions such as Mexico and Central America had higher screening compliance numbers compared to women born in South Asia, who came in with the lowest compliance rate.

“These findings may inform other research on the potential relationship with, and impact of, nativity, percentage of lifetime in the United States and birthplace, and the likelihood of engaging in recommended preventive cancer screening,” the team concluded.