Life

Thursday 21 June 2018

The cancer myths people still believe in - and the proven cancer risks they don't know

Aerosols, cleaning products and artificial sweeteners, were all also incorrectly identified as cancer risk factors. (Stock photo)
Aerosols, cleaning products and artificial sweeteners, were all also incorrectly identified as cancer risk factors. (Stock photo)

Many people still believe in cancer myths, according to a study.

Some blame stress, food additives, genetically modified foods and electromagnetic fields as causes of cancer, although these factors have not been proven to have a link to the disease.

However, they had low awareness of a number of known cancer risk factors such as obesity, eating red or processed meat or drinking alcohol.

The study was carried out by Cancer Research UK and surveyed 1,330 people about their beliefs on the causes of cancer.

The findings in the European Journal of Cancer, found that a quarter of people incorrectly believed that using a mobile phone was a risk factor for cancer.

Aerosols, cleaning products and artificial sweeteners, were all also incorrectly identified as cancer risk factors. But they failed to pinpoint known risk factors including, drinking alcohol, not getting enough fruit and vegetables each day, low levels of physical activity and being over the age of 70.

Two in five failed to identify being overweight or obese as a cancer risk factor. "Obesity was also poorly recognised, which is concerning considering it is the second leading preventable cause of cancer," said the study.

Dr Samuel Smith, from the University of Leeds, pointed out: "It's worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century, which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media.

"It's vital to improve public education about the causes of cancer if we want to help people make informed decisions about their lives and ensure they aren't worrying unnecessarily," said Dr Smith.

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