HEALTH

Survey reveals false myths about tumors that we just can't beat

The French National Cancer Institute (InCA), in collaboration with the Santé publique France (SPF), published a few days ago the results of a survey, called Barometre cancer, which every five years documents the knowledge of French citizens in relation to cancer.

The results show that there is still a lot of misinformation about this kind of disease, with results that are worse than in 2016. In fact, the results published are for the year 2021. 

From working at night to alcohol intake to the stress of everyday life, here is what French citizens think about cancer and lifestyle. Obviously, as the results of a survey, they can also be taken at a general level as an index of average knowledge about these diseases.

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Survey reveals false myths about cancers that we just can't beat
The French National Cancer Institute (InCA), in collaboration with the Santé publique France (SPF), published a few days ago the results of a survey, called Barometre cancer, which every five years documents the knowledge of French citizens in relation to cancer. The results show that there is still a lot of misinformation about this kind of disease, with results that are worse than in 2016. In fact, the results published are for the year 2021. From working at night to alcohol intake to the stress of everyday life, here is what French citizens think about cancer and lifestyle. Obviously, as the results of a survey, they can also be taken at a general level as an index of average knowledge on these diseases.
Freepik
The survey every five years on tumors information
The French National Cancer Institute (InCA), in collaboration with Santé publique France (SPF), published the results of the Barometre cancer survey. These results determine the general information, beliefs and false myths that ordinary people have about cancer, one of the most widespread diseases today. The results refer to 2021, and this survey has been conducted every five years since 2005.
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The work of researchers
What the researchers did was to analyse the answers that respondents gave to questions about their perception of cancer, cancer, cancer-related risks and the causes of cancer. The survey was by telephone, and involved a sample of almost 5000 individuals between the ages of 15 and 85. The results showed the difficulty of eradicating certain misconceptions and mistaken beliefs, which have no scientific basis in themselves. The Medscape website then took up the most significant data from the French survey.
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Is cancer hereditary?
67.7% of respondents believe that cancer is a hereditary disease, a figure that has increased since the last survey in 2015 (it was 61% at the time). The authors of the study believe that doctors bear some responsibility for this belief. When cancer is discovered in the family, doctors tend to ask questions or otherwise advocate keeping the situation monitored, which increases people's fear and the belief that there is a hereditary correlation.
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This is actually a false myth, but the difference is subtle
In fact, the researchers highlight the general confusion regarding the role of genes in cancer transmission. A person may in fact inherit cancer predisposing genes, not the cancer itself. This confusion, however, may lead people to think that preventive measures are unnecessary.
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The false myths about smoking
The data here are mixed. 8 out of 10 people claim to understand that tobacco causes cancer. Unfortunately, however, almost 6 out of 10 people think that the number of cigarettes smoked in a day is more dangerous than the duration of smoking, i.e. the constancy of exposure. Instead, on a scientific level, the years one spends smoking are more impactful than the number of cigarettes smoked in a day. Many smokers also think, according to the study, that a limited number of cigarettes carries almost no health risk, which is obviously not true.
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Obesity and overweight: risk factors, but not for cancer
Diet and overweight represent the third and fourth cancer risk factors that can be acted upon, after smoking and alcohol. However, few consider obesity as a cancer risk, as it is also true that public information focuses much more on the risk of cardiovascular disease. Only 30% of respondents are aware of the link between diet, obesity and the risk of developing diseases such as cancer and tumours. "Excessive weight and obesity were mentioned only 100 times out of 12,558 responses," the authors claim.
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Baby breastfeeding and prevention
In this respect, too, information is very scarce. According to 63% of the respondents, it would not be true that breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing tumours and cancer. Of course, the respondents included both men and women.
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The role of UV radiation
It is a well-known and well known fact that exposure to UV radiation, whether natural (sun) or artificial (e.g., tanning beds) increases the chances of developing skin cancer. However, for one in five (20.9 percent of the sample) of those surveyed, a session on a tanning bed would be less harmful than direct exposure to sunlight.
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How much do psychological factors affect?
In this category, the gap between studies and popular beliefs is enormous. Compared to the risk factors recognised by science, respondents cited far more beliefs unsupported by the research community. For example, 'working at night' for most people is not seen as a risk factor, yet data show that it presents a clear risk (as shown, among other things, by research published in the Journal of Pineal Research). On the contrary, being exposed to stress in our lives, having traumatic experiences and the like, are picked up as a huge cancer risk, when in fact there is no documented scientific evidence for this.
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Electronic cigarettes and nicotine substitutes
More than half of the respondents (53%) believe that e-cigarettes are as harmful as, if not more so, than traditional tobacco, even though, the researchers claim, there is no evidence or study showing that nicotine substitutes have harmful effects on people, nor that they increase the risk of cancer. The confusion here is between possible addiction and risk factors.
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The effects of alcohol are still poorly understood
There is huge misinformation between heavy alcohol consumption and cancer risk. In fact, 8 out of 10 respondents think that you can drink huge amounts of alcohol throughout your life without increasing your risk of developing cancer. Although alcohol is the second leading cause of cancer, only one third of the respondents mentioned it without it being suggested as a major cause of cancer. Furthermore, 23.5% of the respondents thought that, in terms of reducing cancer risk, drinking a glass of wine was better than not drinking it at all.
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