Study Evaluates Cancer Screening Behaviors Among a Population of Muslim Individuals

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Investigators uncovered crucial insights into the cancer screening behaviors of a population of Muslim individuals residing in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area that could help illuminate the influence of cultural and religious beliefs on health practices, according to a recent study published by Choudhri et al in the Journal of Cancer Education. The findings underscore the need for culturally and religiously sensitive health initiatives to improve cancer screening rates among Muslim patients.


The Washington, DC, metropolitan area—which includes parts of Virginia and Maryland—incorporates one of the largest and most diverse Muslim communities in the United States. However, cancer screening behaviors within this community remain little understood. Because the Muslim population in the United States is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades, addressing health-care disparities and ensuring culturally and religiously sensitive health-care services may become increasingly important.

Study Methods and Results

In the recent study, the investigators performed a comprehensive needs assessment by posing culturally and religiously sensitive questions to 203 Muslim patients from the Washington, DC, metropolitan area recruited through community outreach and engagement efforts. The study was conducted in collaboration with key faith leaders from four mosques in the region.

The investigators found that the overall cancer screening rate was lower among the Muslim population compared with the cancer screening in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area. For instance, 35%, 45%, 56%, and 83% of Muslim patients underwent colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy, prostate cancer screening with a prostate-specific antigen test, breast cancer screening with a mammogram, and cervical cancer screening, respectively. Conversely, the overall screening rates among those residing in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland were a respective 82%, 67.6%, and 72.5% for colorectal cancer; and 80%, 76.2%, and 81.2% for breast cancer. The rates of prostate cancer screening among Muslim patients were higher than those achieved in Washington, DC, but lower than those achieved in Virginia and Maryland; whereas the rates of cervical cancer screening were comparable among all four groups.

Further, the investigators discovered that many of the study participants relied on their faith to guide their cancer screening decisions. Female patients were more likely than male patients to rely on their faith when dealing with health concerns. The participants also expressed a strong interest in having health initiatives related to cancer education, screening, and survivorship integrated into their mosques. This preference suggested that mosques could serve as vital centers for health education and intervention—leveraging the trust and influence of faith leaders to promote better health outcomes.


The investigators emphasized the need for ongoing engagement with key faith leaders to more effectively leverage religious beliefs in promoting health education and cancer screening. By understanding the spiritual and religious underpinnings that drive or inhibit health-seeking behaviors, health-care providers can tailor their approaches to better meet the needs of the Muslim community.

“Findings from our study highlight that religious and cultural beliefs may play a role in influencing health behaviors; however, to better understand those roles, we need to continue to engage with the Muslim community in the [Washington, DC, metropolitan] area in order to create an avenue for providing health education in a religiously and culturally sensitive way,” underscored lead study author Aisha Choudhri, MPH, CHES, a community health educator at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. “In working closely with the Muslim community in the [Washington, DC, metropolitan] area to better understand and address their cancer-related health needs, we hope these efforts can help inform education and outreach about health, prevention, and cancer screening practices to broader communities throughout the [United States],” she concluded.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.