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Lack of awareness of cancer risks highlighted

People know that stopping smoking reduces the risk of getting cancer but far fewer are aware of the importance of other lifestyle factors. This is the finding of a survey conducted by Cancer Research UK to mark its latest public health campaign called “Reduce the risk”.

More than 90 per cent of the 4,000 people questioned knew that smoking increases the risk of getting cancer. Furthermore, the vast majority of people knew that sunburn increases skin cancer risk.

However, 66 per cent did not know that being overweight also increases the risk of getting cancer. And 67 per cent did not know that a low intake of fruit and vegetables increases the risks. A similar number were unaware that a high consumption of alcohol could lead to cancer.

The survey also highlighted some red herrings: a quarter of people thought that living near power lines increased cancer risk and one-third thought stress was linked to cancer. Yet Cancer Research UK says that no strong scientific evidence exists to support either of these beliefs.

The charity points out that at least half of all cases of cancer could be prevented by lifestyle changes. This is backed up by a recent Health Development Agency report. It states that changes in diet alone could prevent a third of all cancers.

The “Reduce the risk” campaign will highlight the following key messages: stop smoking, take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol intake, eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, protect skin from sunburn, and inform your GP of any unusual changes to the body. Leaflets and posters to support the campaign can be ordered, free of charge, via a campaign website at

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10018186

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