Cancer

Updated 09 March 2017

What you don't know about cancer can kill you

A survey found that too few Americans realise that obesity, alcohol and inactivity can boost their cancer risk.

0

Cancer isn't inevitable, but many Americans don't know that several lifestyle factors affect their risk of developing the disease, a new survey finds.

Only one in two Americans is aware that obesity can raise the risk of cancer. And fewer than half understand that alcohol, inactivity, processed meat, eating lots of red meat and low consumption of fruits and vegetables are linked to cancer risk, the researchers said.

Read: 4 cancer myths debunked

"There is a clear crisis in cancer prevention awareness," said Alice Bender, head of nutrition programmes at the American Institute for Cancer Research. 

A larger percentage of Americans mistakenly believe that stress, fatty diets and other unproven factors are linked with cancer, according to the institute's 2017 Cancer Risk Awareness Survey.

"It's troubling that people don't recognise alcohol and processed meats increase cancer risk," Bender said in an institute news release. "This suggests the established factors that do affect cancer risk are getting muddled with headlines where the research is unclear or inconclusive."

Few people know the facts

Highlights of the survey findings include:

  • Fewer than 40 percent of Americans know that alcohol affects cancer risk.
  • Only 40 percent know that processed meats are also associated with cancer risk.
  • 50 percent of Americans are aware that being overweight spurs cancer risk, up from 35 percent in 2001.

Nearly one-third of common cancers in the United States could be prevented through diet, weight management and physical activity. That increases to half when factors such as not smoking and avoiding sun damage are added, according to the institute.

Read: Daily exercise may boost colon cancer survival

Research has linked alcohol to at least six cancers, including colon, breast, liver and oesophageal. Studies have also shown that bacon, hot dogs and other processed meats may raise the risk of colon and stomach cancers.

Only half of Americans know that obesity increases the risk of several cancers and that a healthy weight is the second most important way – after not smoking – to reduce cancer risk, the researchers said.

"We know a lot of healthy people do get cancer and sometimes it's easier to worry about genes or uncontrollable things rather than your everyday choices," said Bender.

"But the research says that being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a plant-based diet has the potential to prevent hundreds of thousands of cancer cases each year," Bender added. "It's a powerful message."

Read More:

Type 1 diabetes linked to higher risk of some cancers

Anxiety may cause unnecessary prostate cancer decisions

SEE: Breast cancer – A lump is not the only sign

 

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules