Overall, the survey found that one in five men and women in Great Britain feared cancer ahead of debt, knife crime, Alzheimer’s Disease and losing a job**.
The survey questioned more than 2000 adults aged 16 and over. Thirty-four per cent said the disease was down to fate. And among the 55-64 year olds this figure rose to 41 per cent.
When asked to choose what they feared most from a list including developing Alzheimer’s, being in debt, old age, being the victim of knife crime, cancer, being in a plane crash, motor neurone disease, being in a car accident, having a heart attack, losing your job and losing your home – more people (20 per cent) overall chose cancer than anything else.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “The fear factor is a serious wake-up call for the British public. It’s absolutely vital for us to get the message out that people can do something to alleviate their emphatic fear of cancer.
“Cancer is no longer the death sentence people still seem to dread. Long-term survival has doubled since the 70s thanks to better diagnosis, improved treatments and the development of nationwide screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancers.
“Spotting early signs and symptoms of what could be cancer – but probably isn’t – and getting these checked out by a doctor means that the disease can be diagnosed more quickly. When cancer is diagnosed early then treatment is more likely to be effective with a better chance of long-term survival.
Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health are determined to tackle the problem of public awareness about cancer through the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) which was set up to improve cancer survival in England.
NAEDI aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer to encourage people to get them checked out sooner rather than later and support primary health care professionals to diagnose cancer early including improving access to diagnostic investigations. Early diagnosis is the key to boosting cancer survival.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the National Clinical Director for cancer, said: “The results of this survey show how important it is to get the message across that cancer can often be treatable if diagnosed early. That’s why we are launching a campaign in January to raise awareness of the early signs and symptoms of breast, lung and bowel cancer and encourage people to seek medical advice as soon as possible.”
The Department of Health has provided funding of £10.75 million for an early signs and symptoms campaign to launch in January 2011. The campaign will be driven by local activity spread across 59 regions around the country. This will be supported by two regional pilots in the East of England and the South West which will focus on bowel cancer and, depending on results, may be rolled out nationally.
For media enquiries please contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 8300, or the out of hours’ duty press officer on 07050 264059.
Notes to editors
*The survey was commissioned by Cancer Research UK on behalf of NAEDI. It was carried out by TNS, via face-to-face interviews conducted during the week 12/11/10-16/11/10 in 2070 adults aged 16 and over in Great Britain.
** Overall 20 per cent of those asked feared cancer most while 16 per cent feared Alzheimer’s most.
Among adults up to the age of 44, cancer was feared most by 25 per cent while 7.5 per cent feared Alzheimer’s most.
For those aged over 65 Alzheimer’s was feared most by 30 per cent while 14 per cent feared cancer most.