Lack of Information, Highlights Cancer Prevention Problem In UK

Open quotes95% of the population believe there is little or no information available to help themClose quotes

New research commissioned by CANCERactive highlights that whilst 71% of the population believe cancer can be prevented, 95% of the population believe there is little or no information available to help them. Chris Woollams, founder of CANCERactive said," It’s just sad that fortunes have been spent on cancer ’cures’ yet so little has been done in our schools and similar areas to educate people on how not to develop cancer in the first place. Frankly, it’s time for action. Cancer has virtually doubled in the last 30 years and is predicted to double again in the next 20. Surely, with such vast numbers of people likely to develop cancer at current growth rates, prevention would be much, much more cost effective than cure? And better for the individuals concerned. Especially when, the truth is, many causes are preventable if only people knew."

Research reveals that 95% of Britons believe a greater amount of cancer prevention information should be available, with nine out of 10 saying they’d welcome clearer labelling on products which contain ingredients that may lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.

The research also highlights the lack of accessible and relevant consumer information on possible causes of cancer in spite of the majority of the general public crying out for it. The results also show that the UK’s perceived knowledge of how to prevent the disease (15%) currently falls vastly behind their understanding of how to avoid heart disease (40%) and HIV/Aids (31%).

"With cancer causing a quarter of all UK diseases today and with rates predicted to double in the next 20 years1, these results are hugely concerning and action needs to be taken now," said Chris Woollams, founder of CANCERactive. "The results reveal a very real and obvious public need for more opportunities to access straightforward advice on how to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Over the last 30 years there has been a worrying lack of resources and consumer focus in Britain’s cancer strategy. We have been far too focussed on cure, with too little attention on prevention, which simply must offer the most cost effective approach to controlling cancer."

Open quotes99% of the UK is unaware that obesity can cause cancerClose quotes

While more than seven out of ten people (71%) believe that cancer can be prevented, there remains widespread ignorance about its broad range of causes. 99% of the UK is unaware that obesity can cause cancer and contributing factors like diet (94%) and stress (94%) are also unknown to the majority. Preventative cancer education about the dangers of smoking dominates people’s attentions (72%), while the next cause is thought to be sun damage, identified by one in ten (11%). These results are released at a time when World Health Organisation scientists estimate that poor diets cause over 30% of cancers2.

The World Health Organisation has also reported that at least one third of all cancer cases are preventable, ( yet more than six out of ten people (62%) have no idea which foods could increase their chances of developing cancer. Nearly a quarter (24%) can identify common high fat/high salt meals like sausages and bacon as potentially increasing the risk of developing cancer. However knowledge that other possibilities might include pickles (3%), other high salt products such as soy sauce (11%) and even dairy foods like chocolate (5%) or cheese (6.5%) were unknown to most people3.

The results also show a lack of awareness about the ’super-foods’ known to potentially reduce the risk of developing cancer, with nearly one in five people (18%) not being able to identify a single positive food. Of those that could, half of the UK recognise oily fish (51%) and broccoli (44%) as a superfood, but less people can currently identify the anti-cancer benefits of tomatoes (40%), garlic (38%), pulses (35%) and green tea (34%)4.

Open quotesNearly one in five people (18%) are not able to identify a single positive ’super-food’, known to potentially reduce the risk of developing cancerClose quotes

Additionally when it comes to household or cosmetic products just over half the population claim to take notice of the on-pack ingredients (56.4%). Of those that do, (48%) do so to avoid skin irritants rather than possible cancer-causing ingredients (20%). The majority of the population are currently unaware that toothpaste (98%), shampoo (97%) and nail varnish (93%) may possibly contain chemicals, which might potentially increase the risk of developing cancer. This lack of awareness decreases slightly when it comes to anti-perspirent (77%)5.

Chris Woollams adds, "Let’s be absolutely clear. This is not a black and white area. Indeed is is extremely unlikely that any single factor causes cancer. But I feel strongly that people have a right to know that some things may increase risks and some things may help prevent cancer. We need appropriate warnings and helpful on-pack messages."

CANCERactive is organising the UK’s inaugural cancer prevention conference in order to put cancer prevention at the top of the UK health agenda. To be held on 17th November, speakers include Professor Mike Richards (National Cancer Director at the Department of Health), Dr Ian Gibson (Chairman of the All Party Group on Cancer) and Professor Tony Howell (Cancer Research UK and leading cancer prevention expert). The conference will cover factors, which are contributing the raising levels of cancer in the UK including lifestyle, infection and diet, and current Government policy.

Founder Chris Woollams explains, "We believe it is time to be grown up about cancer prevention in the UK and to start to provide simple, helpful information designed to help ordinary people increase their odds of not developing the disease if they make some small lifestyle, dietary and other changes. CANCERactive is about optimism and helping people beat this terrible and, in many cases unnecessary disease."

1850 UK wide representatives were polled by Canvasse Opinion from Experian in September 2005

Date: October 13th 2005

1 -
2 - WHO 2004 Cancer Report - 10 million new patients with cancer a year globally, 3 million due to tobacco, 3 million due to diet, 1.5m due to infection
3 - 1995. Scandinavian research in 2000 & American Study
4 - US National Cancer Institute, 1986
5 - 1995. Steinman and Epstein; The Safe Shoppers Bible

Lack of Information, Highlights Cancer Prevention Problem In UK
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