Background: A number of studies have been conducted on causal attributions for breast cancer among affected women. An understanding of these causal attributions is important as beliefs that people hold with regard to the cause of their own illness help to provide a framework for determining factors which influence health-related behaviors and ways of coping.
Aim: The aim of this paper was to review published research that analyzed causal attributions for breast cancer among affected women. These attributions were compared with risk factors identified by published scientific evidence in order to determine the level of agreement between cancer survivors’ attributions and expert opinion.
Methods: A comprehensive search for articles, published between 1982 and 2012, reporting studies on causal attributions among breast cancer survivors was undertaken. Of 5,135 potentially relevant articles, 22 studies met the inclusion criteria. Two additional articles were sourced from reference lists of included studies.
Results: Results indicated a consistent belief among survivors that their own breast cancer could be attributed to family history, environmental factors, stress, fate, or chance. Lifestyle factors were less frequently identified, despite expert health information highlighting the importance of these factors in controlling and modifying cancer risk.
Conclusions: The findings of this review indicate that beliefs about the causes of breast cancer among affected women are not always consistent with the judgement of experts. Further research examining psychological predictors of attributions and the impact of cancer prevention messages on adjustment and well-being of cancer survivors is warranted.