publication date: Feb. 7, 2020

Clinical Roundup

Survey finds gaps in knowledge of cancer risk factors

Fewer than half of Americans recognize that drinking alcohol, diets high in red meat, diets low in vegetables, fruits and fiber and insufficient physical activity all have a clear link to cancer development, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research’s ninth Cancer Risk Awareness Survey.

Awareness of other established cancer risk factors like obesity and processed meat is still low, but has risen above 50% for the first time since AICR began the survey in 2001.

“Many people believe that pesticides or air pollution are the major factors in cancer risk, but modifiable lifestyle factors play a bigger role. Diet, activity, body weight and alcohol are the largest drivers of cancer risk and are under our control,” Nigel Brockton, vice president of Research at AICR, said in a statement.

The AICR survey finds that only 53% of Americans are aware that having overweight and obesity increases their cancer risk. The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of 12 types of cancer; six of these cancers have seen a rapid rise in diagnoses and are increasing with each successive younger age group. Aside from not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important way to protect against cancer.

Awareness is also low for other common and important cancer risk factors. Alcohol increases the risk of six types of cancer: mouth, pharynx, and larynx, esophageal, breast, liver, stomach and colorectal. Less than half of Americans, however, know that drinking alcohol is a cancer risk factor.

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Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.