Project Report

Beliefs about cancer causation in Samoa: results from an awareness campaign recall survey


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Beatriz Cuesta-Briand1
PhD, Research Fellow *

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Ernesta Sofija2
PhD, Lecturer in Public Health and Health Promotion

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Shelley Burich3
Dip Sports, Fitness & Health Education, CEO (Former)

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Neil Harris4
PhD, Director, Higher Degree Research (Health), Griffith Health Executive


1 Samoa Cancer Society, Hospital Complex, Moto’otua, Apia, Samoa. Present address: Rural Clinical School, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

2, 4 School of Medicine, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Qld 4222, Australia

3 Samoa Cancer Society, Hospital Complex, Moto’otua, Apia, Samoa. Present address: PO Box 3439, Apia, Samoa

ACCEPTED: 1 February 2021

early abstract:

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Samoa. Cultural beliefs shape attitudes towards disease and disease prevention in Pacific countries, and are a barrier to engaging in cancer screening services. A survey of 205 Samoan adults conducted as part of the evaluation of the first cancer awareness campaign implemented in Samoa explored beliefs about cancer causation. Lifestyle factors associated with a departure from fa'aSamoa (traditional lifestyle) were most commonly cited as causing cancer. Cancer was also attributed to pathogens and person-to-person transmission, and, to a lesser extent, cultural beliefs including supernatural agency (spirits, God). Addressing misconceptions whilst integrating certain aspects of fa’aSamoa into cancer control strategies could support greater engagement in health promotion practices and screening initiatives.