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Knowledge of Causes of Cancer Low in General Population

TUESDAY, May 1, 2018 -- Among the general population, awareness of actual and mythical causes of cancer is poor, according to a study published online April 25 in the European Journal of Cancer.

Lion Shahab, Ph.D., from University College London, and colleagues surveyed a representative sample of the English population (1,330 subjects) regarding beliefs about actual and mythical cancer causes and health behaviors (smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, fruit and vegetable consumption, overweight).

The researchers found that awareness of actual causes of cancer was higher than awareness of mythical causes (52 versus 35 percent accurately identified). Among mythical cancer causes, the most commonly endorsed were exposure to stress (43 percent), food additives (42 percent), and electromagnetic frequencies (35 percent). Greater awareness of both actual and mythical cancer causes was independently associated with younger age, higher social grade, being white, and having post-16 qualifications in adjusted analyses. Awareness of actual cancer causes, but not mythical ones, was associated with not smoking and with eating recommended fruits and vegetables.

"Awareness of actual and mythical cancer causes is poor in the general population," the authors write. "Only knowledge of established risk factors is associated with adherence to behavioral recommendations for reducing cancer risk."

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Posted: May 2018