Exploring non-participation in colorectal cancer screening: A systematic review of qualitative studies

Alice Le Bonniec*, Oonagh Meade, Milou Fredrix, Eimear Morrissey, Ronan E. O'Carroll, Patrick J. Murphy, Andrew W. Murphy, Jenny Mc Sharry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Worldwide, colorectal cancer is a major public health issue. Despite the existence of screening programmes in many countries, global uptake remains low. This meta-ethnography aimed to analyse qualitative literature to explore attitudes towards colorectal cancer screening and reasons for non-participation in eligible people that do not participate when invited. Methods: Systematic searches were conducted in five databases in May 2021. Critical appraisal of included studies was performed using the CASP checklist for qualitative studies. Findings: Thirteen studies were included. Three main themes and eight sub-themes were developed across studies: (1) Differences in motivation, with non-participants expressing a lack of knowledge and varying levels of intention to participate but not feeling screening was personally necessary; (2) Active aversion to screening expressed by fear, discomfort, disgust or not wanting to know; and (3) Contextual barriers of the healthcare system such as practical constraints or poor relationships with healthcare professionals. Conclusion: Findings suggest multiple pathways to non-participation including ambivalence, aversion to the process and consequences of screening or lack of support. Persuasive messages and prompts to action to target ambivalence, reassurance regarding the screening procedures to target negative reactions, and increased support from healthcare professionals may be beneficial in increasing screening uptake.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116022
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Meta-ethnography
  • Non-participation
  • Qualitative
  • Screening


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