Anticipated regret to increase uptake of colorectal cancer screening (ARTICS): a randomised controlled trial

Ronan E. O'Carroll (Lead / Corresponding author), Julie A. Chambers, Linda A. Brownlee, Gillian Libby, Robert J. C. Steele

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    Screening is important for early detection of colorectal cancer. Our aim was to determine whether a simple anticipated regret (AR) intervention could increase uptake of colorectal cancer screening. A randomised controlled trial of a simple, questionnaire-based AR intervention, delivered alongside existing pre-notification letters, was conducted. A total of 60,000 adults aged 50-74 from the Scottish National Screening programme were randomised into the following groups: 1) no questionnaire (control), 2) Health Locus of Control questionnaire (HLOC) or 3) HLOC plus AR questionnaire. The primary outcome was return of the guaiac faecal occult blood test (FOBT). The secondary outcomes included intention to return test kit and perceived disgust (ICK). A total of 59,366 people were analysed as allocated (intention-to-treat (ITT)); no overall differences were seen between the treatment groups on FOBT uptake (control: 57.3%, HLOC: 56.9%, AR: 57.4%). In total, 13,645 (34.2%) individuals returned the questionnaires. Analysis of the secondary questionnaire measures showed that AR indirectly affected FOBT uptake via intention, whilst ICK directly affected FOBT uptake over and above intention. The effect of AR on FOBT uptake was also moderated by intention strength: for less-than-strong intenders only, uptake was 4.2% higher in the AR (84.6%) versus the HLOC group (80.4%) (95% CI for difference (2.0, 6.5)). The findings show that psychological concepts including AR and perceived disgust (ICK) are important factors in determining FOBT uptake. However, the AR intervention had no simple effect in the ITT analysis. It can be concluded that, in those with low intentions, exposure to AR may be required to increase FOBT uptake. The current controlled trials are presented at the website (number: ISRCTN74986452).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)118-127
    Number of pages10
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


    • Colorectal cancer
    • Screening
    • Anticipated regret
    • Faecal occult blood test
    • Disgust


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