In order to activate women to participate in breast cancer screening programs, a good understanding is needed of the personal characteristics that influence how women can be activated to search for more information, consult friends and doctors, and participate in breast cancer screening programs. In the current study, we investigate the effect of six personal characteristics that have in previous research been identified as important triggers of health behavior on breast cancer screening activation: Health awareness, Need for Cognition, Affect Intensity, Breast cancer knowledge, Topic involvement, and the Perceived breast cancer risk. We test the effect of these factors on four activation variables: intention of future information seeking, forwarding the message to a friend, talking to a doctor, and actual breast cancer screening attendance. Additionally, we try to unravel the process by means of which the antecedents (the six personal characteristics) lead to activation. To that end, we test the mediating role of perceived breast cancer threat, perceived efficacy of screening, and the evoked breast cancer anxiety as mediators in this process. The data were collected by means of a cross-sectional survey in a sample of 700 Flemish (Belgium) women who were invited to the free-of-charge breast cancer population screening. Screening attendance of this sample was provided by the government agency in charge of the organisation of the screening. Health awareness, affects intensity, topic involvement, and perceived risk have the strongest influence on activation. Breast cancer anxiety and perceived breast cancer threat have a substantial mediation effect on these effects. Efficacy perceptions are less important in the activation process. Increased health awareness and a higher level of perceived risk lead to less participation in the free of charge population based breast screening program. Implications for theory and practice are offered. The limitation of the study is that only a standard invitation message was used. In future research, other types of awareness and activation messages should be tested. Additionally, the analysis could be refined by investigating the potentially different activation process in different subgroups of women.
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