Study: Many Americans Don't Know What Causes Cancer

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According to a new report issued by the American Institute for Cancer Research, many Americans are unaware of the links between cancer and risk factors like obesity, lack of physical activity, and high red meat intake.

The ACIR Cancer Risk Awareness Survey Report, released periodically since 2001, is designed to gauge public awareness of various lifestyle-related cancer risk factors. Essentially, the survey seeks information on whether or not people know that there are risk factors for cancer they can control.

The results indicate that Americans are generally more prone to blame cancer on factors out of their control, such as inherited predisposition (genetics), radiation, pollution and food additives, than on the lifestyle factors they can modify to reduce their risk.

The survey participants were asked if various risk factors had a significant impact on whether or not the average person develops cancer. The rankings of the six best-established cancer risk factors were as follows:

  • Obesity: 52 percent of participants were aware that this is a proven risk factor for the development of cancer.
  • Alcohol Consumption: 43%
  • Insufficient Physical Activity: 42%
  • Diet Low in Fiber (Fruits & Vegetables): 42%
  • Consumption of Cured Meats: 38%
  • High Red Meat Consumption: 35%

Other factors typically considered out of a person's control ranked much higher. For example, 89 percent of participants blamed interited predisposition or "cancer genes" for the development of most cancers.

The study indicates that awareness of the six most clearly established cancer risk factors remains alarmingly low. It's time for Americans to take ownership of their health, and learn about the ways we can take action to change our lifestyles for the better and reduce our risk for various types of cancer.

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