Many People Not Sure About Cancer Risk Factors

Picture: A pack of cigarettes

People tend to underestimate the
risk of smoking for lung cancer

The new study from American Cancer Society researchers also found that population segments suffering the greatest burden of cancer are the most likely to be misinformed. Evidence indicates that healthy behaviour depends in part on an accurate assessment of proven risk factors.

Previous research has shown that undue concern over unproven risk factors may distract some attention from proven risk factors and might actually result in decisions that are bad for the health.

The survey included 12 inaccurate or unlikely statements about cancer risk, risk factors, and prevention, some of which frequently show up in email inboxes, and asked participants to identify the statements as true or false.

While more than two-thirds of the participants were able to identify seven of the 12 statements as false, five of the 12 statements were endorsed as true by at least a quarter of the respondents, and for seven of the statements, uncertainty was higher than 15 percent. Among the survey’s findings:

Nearly seven in ten Americans (67.7 percent) said the risk of dying of cancer in the U.S. is increasing.

Nearly four in ten (38.7 percent) agreed that living in a polluted city is a greater risk for lung cancer than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Three in ten (29.7 percent) thought electronic devices, like cell phones, can cause cancer.

About one in seven (14.7 percent) thought personal hygiene products, like shampoo, deodorant, and antiperspirants, can cause cancer.

The study also found that the two statements most often rated as “true” by the general public were among the statements unanimously identified as false by a group of ten epidemiologists who were also given the survey. Most strikingly, the statement about the risk of dying from cancer in the United States being on the increase is clearly false, as the age-standardized cancer death rate has been decreasing since the early 1990s.; Source: American Cancer Society