ASCO’s National Cancer Opinion Survey, a large, nationally representative survey conducted online by Harris Poll, found that the majority of Americans are unaware of several major risk factors for cancer—most notably obesity, which will soon overtake smoking as the largest preventable cause of cancer in the United States.
While a majority of Americans correctly identify tobacco use (78%) and sun exposure (66%) as risk factors for cancer, far fewer are aware of other lifestyle factors that increase their cancer risk. Notably, less than a third of Americans (31%) realize that obesity is a risk factor for cancer, even though it is currently the second leading preventable cause of the disease . In fact, a higher body mass index is associated with increased risk of a number of cancers, including colon, breast, high-grade prostate, and uterine cancers. According to a recent analysis by the National Cancer Institute, if current the rates of obesity continue to trend upward, by 2030 there could be about 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the United States than would otherwise be expected.
At the same time, the majority of Americans are not taking some important preventive actions to reduce their cancer risk . Only 48% say they use sunblock or limit their exposure to the sun, 41% say they maintain a healthy weight, and 38% say they limit alcohol consumption in order to prevent cancer.
Clearly a lot more education is needed. Education needs be be coordinated with physicians, insurers as well as pharma websites. If we are to reduce the cost of health care we simply can’t rely on the government, people have to take responsibility for their health and good behaviors need to be reinforced.