Global survey highlights need for cancer prevention campaigns to correct misbeliefs

August 27th, 2008 - 4:02 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, August 27 (ANI): A global survey has highlighted the need for cancer prevention campaigns to correct misbeliefs among people.

Many people hold mistaken beliefs about what causes cancer, tending to inflate the threat from environmental factors that have relatively little impact while minimizing the hazards of behaviours well established as cancer risk factors, according to the first global survey on the topic.

The survey, conducted by Roy Morgan Research and Gallup International on behalf of the International Union of Against Cancer (UICC), identified key areas where misconceptions could be addressed and where lives could be saved.

The survey involved interviewing 29,925 people in 29 countries across the globe during the last year. It is the first study to provide internationally comparable data on perceptions about cancer risk factors.

Key findings from the survey include:

People in high-income countries were the least likely to believe that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer. In that group, 42 per cent said alcohol does not increase the risk.

That compares with only 26 per cent of respondents in middle-income countries and 15 per cent in low-income countries, saying that alcohol use does not increase the risk of cancer. In fact, cancer risk rises as alcohol intake increases.

In high-income countries, the hazards of not eating enough fruits and vegetables scored more highly as a perceived risk (59 per cent) than alcohol intake did (51 per cent), even though the scientific evidence for the protective effect of fruit and vegetables is weaker than the evidence that alcohol intake is harmful.

In rich countries, stress (57 per cent) and air pollution (78 per cent) scored higher as perceived risk factors for cancer than did alcohol intake.

However, stress is not recognized as a cause of cancer and air pollution is a minor contributor compared with alcohol consumption.

People in low- and middle-income countries have more pessimistic beliefs about cancer treatment than those in high-income countries.

One of the more important problematic beliefs in lower-income countries concerned perceptions about the curability of cancer.

The survey found that in such countries 48 per cent said that not much can be done to cure cancer or that they didnt know whether anything could be done. That compares with 39 per cent in middle-income countries and 17 per cent in high-income countries.

Such a misbelief is worrying because it might deter people from participating in cancer screening programmes, which are important for saving lives.

Dr David Hill, President-Elect of UICC and director of the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, whose team analyzed the survey data, said that governments around the world will now have solid data to use to put in place education campaigns to address these beliefs and change them to save lives. (ANI)

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