Survey finds causes of cancer little understood

Tue Aug 26, 2008 6:07pm EDT
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By Robert Evans

GENEVA (Reuters) - People in rich and poor countries alike have faulty understanding of what causes cancer and need better education on how to ward off the disease, according to an authoritative report issued on Wednesday.

In all parts of the world there is more willingness to believe that factors out of individual control, like air pollution, rather than life-style choices like heavy eating and drinking of alcohol, are the main dangers, the report said.

The report, based on a survey sponsored by the International Union against Cancer (UICC) of nearly 30,000 people in 29 countries, was released at the start of a four-day World Cancer Congress in Geneva.

UICC President-elect David Hill of Australia said the survey showed there was a global need for "education programmes to encourage and support behavior change."

In high-income countries like Australia, Britain, Canada, Greece, Spain and the United States, the survey found, refusal to recognize that alcohol consumption increases the cancer risk ran at 42 percent of the population.

By contrast, in middle-income countries like China, Indonesia, Mexico, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and Uruguay, only 26 percent questioned for the survey thought that drinking did not make contracting cancer more likely.

And in the two low-income countries included in the survey, Kenya and Nigeria, recognition of the alcohol danger ran highest, with only 15 percent of those questioned saying that it was not a cause of the disease.

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