There are a lot of false beliefs about the causes of cancer.
Cleaning products, microwave ovens and stress are among a number of things that the public think cause cancer, but with no clear scientific evidence backing this up, a new study has shown.
The research, carried out in England and published in the European Journal of Cancer, surveyed 1,330 people, asking them whether various touted causes of cancer were real or mythical and asking them questions about their lifestyle and health.
More than one-third of those surveyed incorrectly believed that food additives and genetically modified (GM) foods caused cancer, despite decades of scientific evidence to the contrary. Mobile phones and electromagnetic frequencies, a broad term for emissions from electronic devices, such as wi-fi, were also widely believed to cause cancer with 35% and 23% of people, respectively identifying them, despite no good scientific evidence backing up these beliefs.
Dr Samuel Smith, leader of the study from the University of Leeds said: “It’s worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence. Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the start of the century which could be a result of changes to how we access news and information through the internet and social media.”
Around 40% of cancer diagnoses could be prevented by changes in lifestyle factors, but this relies on the public firstly knowing what the causes are. The new research suggests that even if people want to make changes to reduce their risk, they may not know what really causes cancer and worse, may be focusing their efforts on entirely the wrong things.
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