New insights on the global fight to prevent cancers were presented during the ESMO 2012 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Vienna. The studies highlight the challenges of overcoming misunderstandings about how important lifestyle factors are in reducing cancer risk.Lose the weight.
"These studies highlight the fact that a large proportion of the European population does not particularly like the idea of 'self-responsibility' for personal cancer prevention - that is, changing their habits and lifestyle accordingly. Rather, they blame genetics and society for getting cancer," said Prof Hans-Jorg Senn, St. Gallen, Switzerland, Chair of the ESMO Cancer Prevention Faculty.
"Increasing awareness of the importance of primary cancer prevention is an enormous health-political issue for the future," Prof Senn said. "If we do not become more successful in truly and significantly lowering the incidence of major cancer types, such as gastrointestinal and breast cancer in our ageing society, we will wind up with drastically increasing financial burdens for ever-more active treatment and care, besides the projected losses in working capacity and the accompanying burdens of human suffering."
Study reveals confusion about cancer risk factors - tight underwear does not increase cancer risk... but obesity does!
Many people are highly misinformed about the important role lifestyle factors play in raising their risk of developing cancer, according to a new research released at the ESMO 2012 Congress in Vienna.
A large proportion of people overestimate the cancer risk attributable to genetics, said Dr Derek Power, medical oncologist at Mercy and Cork University Hospitals, Ireland. On the other hand, many underestimate the cancer risks associated with obesity, alcohol and sunlight exposure.
"Many myths surrounding cancer risk are also still popular," said Dr Power, who was the lead author of the study. "For example, many people wrongly think that a blow to the breast, stress, wearing tight underwear, the use of mobile phones, genetically modified foods and aerosols are major cancer risk factors."
Dr Power and colleagues used a 48-question survey to assess knowledge about cancer risks among the general population. Overall, 748 people took part, including 126 who said they were healthcare professionals. The survey was carried out at University College Cork (UCC) by Lisa Burns and Ursula Kenny, both undergraduates in BSc Nutritional Sciences degree, in conjunction with Breakthrough Cancer Research and the Irish Cancer Society.
"Overall, 90% people, including healthcare professionals, believed genetics 'strongly' increases risk," Dr Power said. "More than one in four of the public believed that more than 50% of cancers are genetic. Incredibly 15% of people we surveyed believed lifetime risk of cancer is non-modifiable."
These misunderstandings must be tackled if cancer rates are to be reduced, he said.
"This misinformation needs to be addressed in health promotion campaigns, emphasizing that diet and lifestyle including smoking account for 90-95% of cancers," he said. "Only about 5 to 8% of cancers, depending on cancer site, are due to an inherited gene."
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