Misconceptions about the causes of cancer are common in the general population, study finds

Misconceptions about the causes of cancer are common in the general population, study finds

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds and University College London has found that large sections of society are misinformed about actual and mythical causes of cancer. 

The study analysed data from a 2016 survey of 1,327 adults regarding public understanding of cancer causes. The researchers found that while knowledge about actual causes of cancer is improving it was still "disappointingly low" and that awareness of mythical causes of cancer was increasing.

Of the actual cancer risks that were lowly reported; 4/10 respondents were unaware that obesity was linked with an increased risk of cancer, 4/10 were unaware of the risks of sunburn and 6/10 were unaware that doing less that 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 times per week increased the risk of cancer. 

Of the mythical cancer risks; 4/10 thought stress increased the risk of cancer, 3/10 thought using a mobile phone could cause cancer, 3/10 thought living close to power lines could cause cancer and 3/10 thought eating GM foods increased the risk of cancer.  However the researchers did find that endorsing mythical causes of cancer was not associated with riskier health behaviours. 

The researchers suggest that the increase in false information about cancer causes could be due to changes in the way people receive their news and information.

Study: Prevalence of beliefs about actual and mythical causes of cancer and their association with socio-demographic and health-related characteristics: Findings from a crosssectional survey in England.

Image: International Journal of Advanced Research

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