Millions Still At Risk Of Cancer, Here’s What We Need To Do

Health News Tuesday 4 February 2020 World Cancer Day.
A study commissioned by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) has revealed that millions are still at risk of cancer. How so? Well, simply due to a simple lack of awareness. They are hoping the information will help mobilize urgent action from individuals, governments, and the global cancer community.

The Global Risk Of Cancer Survey

The  UICC commissioned a global survey to form an up-to-date picture of the public’s experiences, views, and behaviors around cancer. Conducted by Ipsos, the survey includes more than 15,000 adults across 20 countries. This is the first multi-country public survey on cancer perceptions conducted in a decade.

The International Public Opinion Survey on Cancer 2020: What people feel, think and believe about cancer today indicates a clear divide between higher and lower socioeconomic groups when it comes to knowledge and awareness of cancer risks. And, as a result, the practice of behaviors to limit such risk.

A Growing Divide When It Comes To Risk

Chief Executive Officer, Union for International Cancer Control, Dr. Cary Adams said: “It is unacceptable that millions of people have a greater chance of developing cancer in their lifetime because they are simply not aware of the cancer risks to avoid and the healthy behaviors to adopt – information that many of us take for granted. And this is true around the world.”

The Risk Of Cancer Has A Profound Psychological Impact

Cancer has a profound effect on people around the world. Over one in three people surveyed (61%) indicated that they are or have been affected by cancer. This was either through their own personal experience or through knowing someone who has or has had the disease. They feel concern that they, themselves, will develop or redevelop cancer within their lifetime. Almost 60% expressed this feeling, no matter their age, education or income status.

Individuals surveyed were most likely to say they had a family member that has or has had cancer.

General Awareness For Some Risk Indicators, But Not Others

The survey’s results show that there is generally a high level of cancer awareness among the surveyed population globally.  People recognize that tobacco use (63%), exposure to harmful UV rays (54%) and exposure to tobacco smoke from others (50%) can increase a person’s risk of cancer.

cancer risk

However, this does not hold true for other critical factors. For example,  a lack of exercise (28%), exposure to certain viruses or bacteria (28%) and being overweight (29%) appear to be the least recognized cancer risk factors.

Millennial Risk Is Alarming

Perhaps most concerning is that the younger people surveyed (those under 35 years old) appeared less likely to recognize tobacco use as a cancer risk factor than those over 50 years old. This finding underscores the ongoing need to raise awareness about cancer risk factors in every new generation.

Lower Income Households Risk

Governments also play an important role in cancer control. But in the eyes of the people surveyed the vast majority of people surveyed (84%) indicate the belief that governments do indeed need to take action on cancer.

Globally, it is clear that making cancer treatment and services more affordable is a priority.  One in three people surveyed (33%) perceiving it as the most important governmental measure. However, different perspectives emerge at the country level and insights also differ depending on the surveyed person’s own experience with cancer.

Less Likely to Recognize Risk

However, individuals from lower-income household brackets in the countries surveyed were less likely to recognize cancer risk factors than those from higher-income households.

In all areas except tobacco use, this trend can also be seen when comparing people surveyed who have not completed a university education to those with university educations.

cancer risk

The Developing World Is At Risk

The UICC reports that around 9.6 million people died from cancer in 2018.  More than half of cancer deaths are happening in the least developed parts of the world.

Irrespective of where people live in the world, those surveyed with lower education and those on lower incomes appear less aware of the main cancer risk factors. They also appear less likely to pro-actively take the steps needed to reduce their cancer risk than those from a high-income household or with a university education.

Cancer Risk

Raise More Awareness

UICC President HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan said: “To tackle the global cancer burden now and for the future, governments and decision-makers across the international cancer community must come together to ensure that everyone is afforded every opportunity to take control over their cancer risk – no matter their education or income level.”

It’s vital to help raise greater awareness around cancer and to support health-promoting behavior so that no one gets left behind.

Here are five key ways in which governments can help

  1. Prioritize cancer awareness-raising and prevention.
    This can be done through progressive health policies and education to support health decisions and health-promoting behavior. There should also be a focus on engaging lower socioeconomic populations.
  2. Ensure the public is provided with up-to-date information on cancer risks and cancer prevention.
    It’s important that the information is presented and delivered in a way that is accessible by individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
  3. Implement policies to help reduce the consumption of known cancer-causing products.
    These products include tobacco, sugary food, and beverages. It’s important to encourage health-promoting behaviors, particularly among lower socioeconomic groups.
  4. Invest pro-actively in national cancer control planning and the establishment of population-based registries.
    This will ensure the most effective resource allocation that benefits all groups.
  5. Continue to raise awareness with each new generation.
    This will help to ensure that up-to-date information on cancer risks and cancer prevention is not taken for granted.
Signs and Symptoms of Cancer

Here are three important ways to help you and your family reduce the risk of cancer

  1. Use World Cancer Day as an opportunity to improve your understanding of cancer risk factors and share your knowledge with others
  2. Make a personal commitment to reduce your cancer risks like quitting smoking, eating healthily, exercising regularly, and using sunscreen
  3. Take advantage of what your health system can provide. This includes getting a check-up, getting screened, and getting vaccinated

Important Resources and Links

  • International Public Opinion Survey on Cancer 2020 report available to download here
  • For more information about specific  cancer awareness events, please visit:

About the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)

The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is the largest and oldest international cancer-fighting organization. Founded in Geneva in 1933, UICC has over 1,150 member organizations in 173 countries. It enjoys consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It also has official relations with the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

About the Survey

The International Public Opinion Survey on Cancer is an international online survey conducted from 25 October to 25 November 2019 on a total sample of 15,427 adults. The survey was conducted via the Ipsos Online Panel system in 20 countries around the world. These countries include Australia, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the USA.

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