1459P_PR - Poor Knowledge of Risk Factors for Cancer amongst General Public & Health Care Professionals

Date 30 September 2012
Event ESMO Congress 2012
Session Poster presentation II
Topics Aetiology, Epidemiology, Screening and Prevention
Patient Education and Advocacy
Basic Scientific Principles
Presenter Samantha Cushen
Authors S. Cushen1, A.M. Ryan1, L. Burns1, U. Kenny1, D.G. Power2
  • 1Food & Nutritional Sciences, University College Cork, Cork/IE
  • 2Medical Oncology, Mercy University Hospital, Cork/IE


Background: Knowledge of cancer risk factors has rarely been studied in Ireland. An understanding of this can help inform cancer prevention programs

Methods: An 48 question online survey was used to assess knowledge

Results: 748 people took part, 126(17%) were Health Care Professionals (HCP). Mean age was 37yrs. 80% of pubic and 78% of HCP were concerned about developing cancer, however 15% of public believed if cancer was in their family there was nothing they could do about personal risk. 20% of public and 10% of HCP did not know risk increases with age. 90% of both groups believe that genetics ‘strongly’ increases risk, 79% of public and 73% of HCP reporting that >10% of cancers are inherited.
The top 5 risk factors listed were: smoking 87%, diet 76%, alcohol 42%, genetics 47%, and environment 31%. Only 32% of pubic and 41% of HCP were aware that obesity is a risk factor. 33% of public and 24% of HCP did not think the location of fat was important. 78% of HCP were unaware abdominal fat can cause inflammation and secrete substances implicated in cancer development. 94% of respondents believe stress is a risk factor and 68% believed cell phones increase risk. 35% thought ‘detox’ diets and 61% believed organic food reduced risk. The following were thought to increase risk: Aerosols(71%), cleaning agents(73%), cooking methods(68%), processed meat(86%), food irradiation(77%), and genetically modified food(81%). The majority were aware that berries, green tea, vegetables and physical activity (30 mins/d) can reduce risk. Only 33% of public and 35% of HCP knew that frozen vegetables/fruit are as good as fresh, 40% of public and 28% of HCP were unaware that red meat is a risk factor, and 46% did not know salt can increase risk. 51% of public and 54% of HCP believe that a daily multivitamin is protective, and 24% of public and 20% of HCP thought they should be consumed daily. 29% of public and 24% of HCP believed wearing a tight bra increases risk of breast cancer, and 48% of public and 41% of HCP believed a blow to the breast can increase risk.

Conclusions: A sizable portion of public and HCP are misinformed about cancer risk. Most are aware of classic risk factors but many overestimate risk attributable to genetics, environment, stress, and underestimate age, obesity and sunlight. One in 6 members of public believes lifetime risk of cancer is non-modifiable