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2011 RFA Links and Provocative Questions  

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Why don't more people alter behaviors known to increase the risk of cancers?

Background: A wealth of epidemiological research shows that certain modifiable behaviors are linked to increased cancer risk. These include tobacco use, UV exposure, sexual behaviors, obesity, and lack of cancer screening. However, despite this knowledge, many people struggle with, or are unable to modify, these behaviors. By understanding basic mechanisms of executive control, emotion, and motivation, we might be better able to understand why people fail to alter behavioral patterns, and reduce this resistance to change.

Feasibility: Studies suggest that the message of behavior risk may not be conveyed by basic communication approaches. The substance of the message may not be understood or the mode of delivery may be ineffective. Further, even with an effective message and mode of delivery, individuals may be unable to act on the message to alter and maintain their behaviors. Recent advances in behavioral and neurological studies can help to understand where in the delivery of the message and in the efforts to change behavior, an individual loses the ability to avoid risky behavior.

Implications of success: Reductions in behavior that increase risk would have an enormous impact in the incidence of cancer.

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