Many people hold mistaken beliefs about what causes cancer, tending to inflate the threat from environmental factors that have relatively little impact while minimizing the hazards of behaviours well established as cancer risk factors, according to the first global survey on the topic.
The survey, conducted by Roy Morgan Research and Gallup International on behalf of the International Union of Against Cancer (UICC), identified key areas where misconceptions could be addressed and where lives could be saved.
The survey involved interviewing 29,925 people in 29 countries across the globe during the last year. It is the first study to provide internationally comparable data on perceptions about cancer risk factors. The results, which allow for comparison between high-, middle- and low-income countries, were released Wednesday at the UICC's World Cancer Congress in Geneva.
Key findings from the survey include:
Dr David Hill, President-Elect of UICC and director of the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, whose team analyzed the survey data, said governments around the world will now have solid data to use to put in place education campaigns to address these beliefs and change them to save lives.
"The survey reveals there are some big unheard messages. These kind of data help us to quantify the differences between countries and to highlight where additional efforts are needed. Some of these countries have rarely had any population survey data to help their programme planning efforts," he said.
"We know that people need to be given a reason why they should change. They need to be shown how to change; they need to be given resources or support to change; they need to remember to change and they need positive reinforcement for changing. Many of these principles can be applied in designing education programmes to encourage and support behaviour change," he said.
Dr Hill said the UICC would use the data to push a worldwide agenda to ensure people had more accurate knowledge of cancer as a basis for making cancer control programmes as effective as they can be.
High-income countries included in the survey: Australia, Austria, , Canada, Czech Republic, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, UK, USA
Middle-income countries: Bolivia, China, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Lebanon, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Uruguay
Low-income countries: Kenya, Nigeria
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