There are steps you can take to help prevent cancer. Many lifestyle choices we make can increase or decrease our risk. However, a recent survey suggests many patients do not understand how these choices affect their chances for developing cancer.

How Well Do Americans Understand Cancer Risk Factors?

To gauge general understanding of cancer risk factors, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has periodically surveyed patients since 2001. The AICR 2015 Cancer Risk Awareness Survey included responses from more than 1,100 individuals. Here are some of the results:

  • Only 42 percent of respondents were aware that diets low in vegetables and fruit can increase cancer risk. This is down from the 52 percent reported in 2009.
  • Alcohol is a risk factor for many cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, mouth and breast. However, only 43 percent of respondents were aware that alcohol consumption is a cancer risk factor.
  • Approximately one-third of respondents were aware that diets high in red meat have been linked to increased risk for colon cancer.
  • Slightly more than one-half of respondents were aware that excess body fat can increase risk for developing cancer.
  • While a physically active lifestyle can help reduce risk for cancer, only 42 percent of respondents were aware that inactivity can increase risk for cancer.
  • A majority of respondents were aware that tobacco use (94 percent) and sun exposure (84 percent) can cause increase risk for cancer.

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What Do Americans Think Causes Cancer?

While there is a lack of awareness surrounding actual cancer risk factors, many Americans seem focused on unproven risks. The following items have not been definitively linked to cancer risk, yet more than one-half believe they are cancer risk factors.

  • 62 percent believe food additives are a risk factor.
  • 56 percent believe genetically modified foods are a risk factor.
  • 55 percent believe stress is a risk factor.
  • 54 percent believe hormones in beef are a risk factor.

Around 340,000 cancer cases could be prevented through changes in diet, weight and physical activity, according to AICR estimates. These survey results suggests there is room for improvement regarding the way physicians inform patients about cancer risk factors.

At Breastlink, we believe that empowering patients with information about their health is essential to improving health outcomes. If you would like to learn more about risk awareness or risk prevention, please contact us.

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