Bridging behavioral science with cancer prevention and control: Contributions of an NCI working group (2009-2019)

William M.P. Klein, Alexander J. Rothman, Jerry Suls

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Human behavior plays a central role in cancer-related morbidity and mortality. Much behavior is, in turn, attributable to several core biological, cognitive, emotional, motivational, and interpersonal processes. Understanding the systematic and interactive impact of these processes can inform efforts to address cancer-relevant outcomes such as tobacco use, reliance on cancer misinformation, engagement in genetic testing, adherence to treatment, and acceptance of palliative care. Here, we review efforts of the NCI-supported Cognitive, Affective, and Social Processes in Health Research working group. Since 2009, this group has endeavored to advance the integration of basic behavioral science with cancer prevention and control by addressing topics such as the degree to which behavioral interventions alter cognitions underlying behavior, how technological innovations might facilitate behavioral measurement and intervention in areas such as smoking cessation, whether decision science principles might be applied to genetic testing decisions, how the cognitive effects of chemotherapy impair self-regulation, and the extent to which emotional factors drive palliative care decisions. The group has initiated numerous activities to build capacity for research in these areas including state-ofthe-science meetings, written syntheses, conference symposia, and training workshops. We conclude with reflections about future needs as well as how to sustain such integrative efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-342
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Prevention Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Abstracting lessons from the basic behavioral sciences for cancer prevention and control on a domain-by-domain basis would be inefficient without a higher level consideration of how behavioral processes apply throughout the entire cancer control continuum. Indeed, adopting an integrative, systematic, and interdisciplinary approach to cancer prevention and control, including attention to the broad importance of the behavioral sciences, was central to the early development of the National Cancer Institute (NCI's) Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (1). Nevertheless, achieving the promise of integrating core behavioral science principles with cancer prevention and control efforts requires navigating disciplinary barriers. Although behavioral scientists have explored how behavioral processes can be investigated in visible and well-known cancer domains such as smoking cessation (2), the nature of their training could make them less comfortable with other domains such as genomic panel testing and palliative care decision making (3). Concomitantly, cancer prevention and control scientists and practitioners might not be familiar with innovations in behavioral science that are published largely in discipline-specific journals. Several grant funding–driven working groups sponsored by the NIH have been instrumental in promoting the application of behavioral science concepts to health outcomes more broadly, including the Basic Behavioral and Social Sciences Opportunity Network, the Science of Behavior Change Common Fund initiative, and the Obesity-Related Behavioral Intervention Trials initiative (4). These

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Association for Cancer Research.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review


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