New research has emerged on the public’s perception of cancer and it shows that old opinions on the disease persist and that new lifestyle recommendations are not being properly understood or heeded.

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However, most of the people questioned do believe that cancer is curable.

Researchers at the University of Leicester and Leicester’s Hospitals conducted the study to find out what patients believed about cancer and its causes, and were funded by the Leicestershire-based charity Hope Against Cancer.

Published in the journal Clinical Oncology, the research aimed to compare knowledge about cancer treatment and beliefs about the causes of cancer in British South Asian cancer patients and British White cancer patients, and how these beliefs impact the patients’ mental health.

From September 2007 to January 2010, 279 cancer patients took part in the study.

The findings showed the following:

· Both groups emphasized stress, pollution and injury as causes of cancer

· 20% thought surgery could cause cancer to spread

· Both groups believed religion and fate played a part in cancer, although British South Asians more so

· 30% of the group believed alternative medicine was as effective as current clinical procedures, with twice as many British South Asians holding this belief

· Most people agreed that smoking can cause cancer

· There was a huge lack of awareness in both groups about the roles obesity, lack of exercise and diet play in the onset of cancer.

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Many cancer patients were unaware of the significance of diet and exercise

Professor Paul Symonds from the University of Leicester said: “It is clear that there is a continual need for education into the causes of cancer.   The good news is that the majority of the sample believed that cancer was curable and screening effective, while 84% appreciated that smoking could cause cancer.

“This shows that some messages are getting through, but we clearly have more work to do in educating the public on the effect of diet and obesity.”

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