PURPOSE: to assess the knowledge, attitude and practice of breast self-examination (BSE) of women from the municipality of São Luís (MA), Brazil, and associated socio-demographic variables. METHODS: prospective and cross-sectional study, with conglomerate sampling, in which 552 women from 14 census sections of São Luís were included during the period from January to September 2003. The knowledge, attitude and practice (dependent variables) were evaluated by means of analysis of the responses of the women as "adequate" or "inadequate". The main independent variables were: age, schooling, family income and marital and menopausal status. The χ2 test was used to determine the association between categorical variables and the measurement of the crude/adjusted Odds Ratio (OR) after multivariate analysis by means of logistic regression. RESULTS: although 1/3 of the studied population did not know about BSE, the group of women who were informed about it showed adequate knowledge (60.9%), practice (59.5%) and attitude (90%). The family history of breast cancer (8.9%) was not associated with better knowledge and practice. The media (63.6%) was found to be important in disseminating information about BSE. After multivariate analysis, women with a partner (OR=1.9) presented more adequate knowledge; women older than 50 years (OR=11.7) had a better attitude towards BSE; women with more than five years of schooling (OR=2) and with a partner (OR=1.7) were associated with a more correct practice of BSE. CONCLUSION: most of the patients know and practice the BSE in São Luís and their attitude towards the procedure is extremely positive. There was a great participation of the media in the dissemination of information concerning BSE.
Self-examination; Mass screening; Health knowledge, attitudes, practice; Breast; Breast neoplasms