Many people hold mistaken beliefs about what causes cancer, tending to inflate the threat from environmental factors that have relatively little impact while minimising the hazards of behaviour, the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) said in a statement.
The study was released on the first day of the UICC's World Cancer Congress in Geneva, and was based on interviews with 29,925 people in 29 countries over the past year carried out by Roy Morgan Research and Gallup International. It found that in high-income countries like the United States, Britain and Spain, 59 % of people thought not eating enough fruit and vegetables was a cancer risk, while only 51 % viewed alcohol intake in the same way.
The scientific evidence for the protective effect of fruit and vegetables is weaker than the evidence that alcohol intake is harmful, the UICC said. Moreover, 42 %of people questioned in high-income countries said that drinking alcohol does not increase the risk of causing cancer -- a claim not borne out by statistics, according to the UICC. In fact, cancer risk rises as alcohol intake increases, it said. In low- and middle-income countries, many people still adopt a fatalistic approach to the disease, with 48 percent of respondents saying they believed not much can be done to treat the illness against just 17 % high-income countries.