Cancer is one of the leading causes of death among Americans today. 

CBS news reports on Americans’ misconceptions about cancer. 

This new study found that fewer than half of Americans are aware that some major lifestyle factors can affect their cancer threat. But now, many people worry about cancer-causing claims that are not backed by scientific evidence -- such as stress or hormones in foods, according to this new survey. It was conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Dr. Bender, the director of nutrition at the AICR said,

“About half of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented through lifestyle choices -- like not smoking, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.”

However the new study shows that most Americans do not know this. Experts say the lack of public awareness is extremely concerning.

The study polled over 1,100 U.S. adults polled. Researchers say only a minority knew of important lifestyle risk factors such as obesity, diets high in meat and lack of exercise or mobility.

“More Americans, it seems, are worried about purported risk factors that have little to no scientific evidence to back them up, according to the survey. Between 54 percent and 62 percent of survey respondents believed that psychological stress, hormones in beef, genetically modified foods, and food additives raise people's cancer risk,” according to CBS.

However, just over fifty percent believed artificial sweeteners cause cancer -- which was up by 11 percentage points, versus the same AICR survey done over a year ago. These misconceptions likely show popular wisdom, according to Dr. Doyle, who is the managing director of the Healthy Eating, Active Living Environments program for the prestigious American Cancer Society.

Dr. Doyle told CBS, “There is no good evidence that artificial sweeteners raise cancer risk, but people have heard that they do. So they'll avoid sweeteners, but not worry about the cheeseburger they're eating -- even though there's convincing evidence linking red and processed meats to colon cancer.”

The study sought to find out, where are Americans getting their information about cancer? The study did not ask that question directly but from the survey’s answers Bender came to the conclusion that people are getting their information from TV and media and other similar sources.

The headlines do get complicated for the public. The general public may see news stories about individual studies finding a link, or no link, between a lifestyle factor and a given form of cancer.

Doyle further explained,

“But in science, Doyle noted, no single study is the final word: It's the whole body of evidence that matters. Groups such as the American Cancer Society, the AICR and government health agencies look at the overall evidence and come up with reports and recommendations.”

Bender made a similar argument point. "If you just look at headlines about individual studies, you'll be confused.” Experts are urging doctors to give their patients more information so that they are more informed.

Bender and Doyle hope that their suggestions will help inspire people to gain more information and feel more empowered.


Gerry Oginski
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