Assessing the Effectiveness of Cancer Screening Interventions Targeting Appalachian Populations: A Systematic Review

Nicole M. Robertson, Lauren Hudson, Suzanna Labib Attia, J. Zachary Porterfield, Nathan L. Vanderford

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: Appalachian residents have higher cancer prevalence and invasive cancer incidence in almost all cancer types relative to non-Appalachian residents. Public health interventions have been carried out to increase preventive cancer screening participation. However, no studies have evaluated the effectiveness of existing interventions targeting cancer screening uptake in this high-risk population. The main objective of this study is to assess the effectiveness of interventions aimed at increasing uptake and/or continuing participation in screened cancers (breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate) in Appalachia. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of electronic databases and gray literature using a combination of MeSH and free-text search terms related to breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer; mass screening; health promotion; and Appalachia. We identified 3,014 articles of which 15 articles were included. We assessed methodological quality using validated tools and analyzed findings using narrative synthesis. Findings: Fifteen studies reported uptake and/or continued participation in screening interventions; these focused on cervical (n = 7), colorectal (n = 5), breast (n = 2), and lung (n = 1) cancers in Appalachia. Interventions included diverse components: mass media campaigns, community outreach events, community health workers, interpersonal counseling, and educational materials. We found that multi-strategy interventions had higher screening uptake relative to interventions employing 1 intervention strategy. Studies that targeted noncompliant populations and leveraged existing community-based organization partnerships had a substantial increase in screening participation versus others. Conclusions: There is an urgent need for further research and implementation of effective cancer prevention and screening interventions to reduce disparities in cancer morbidity and mortality in Appalachian populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)602-623
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Rural Health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 National Rural Health Association


  • Appalachia
  • cancer screening
  • health promotion
  • intervention
  • secondary prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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