Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Cancer campaigns need rethinking new study finds

Traditional cancer awareness campaigns may need rethinking to target at risk groups a new study suggests.

Research conducted by Monash University in collaboration with Cancer Council New South Wales shows that young people and men have poor awareness of common cancer risk factors such as UV exposure and tobacco smoke.

While there's awareness of some cancer risk behaviours, more work is needed.

Lead author, Monash University’s Associate Professor Rebecca Kippen said there was a need for more carefully targeted social marketing campaigns to get the message through to these groups.

“In Australia around one third of cancer cases are due to modifiable lifestyle factors,” said Associate Professor Kippen.

“We know that awareness of these risks is an important influence on people’s attitudes and behaviour about cancer prevention.

“This research shows that, in particular, young people and men don’t seem to be aware of these common risk factors and so they’re not engaging in protective behaviour.”

The study analysed the responses of 3,301 adult residents across New South Wales to a survey conducted by Cancer Council New South Wales in 2013.

Respondents were asked to rate seven risk factors – UV exposure, smoking and passive exposure to smoke, alcohol consumption, not eating enough fruit and vegetable consumption, and high body weight – and report on their own protective behaviour.

The study shows that, overall, there is high community awareness of the cancer risks of UV exposure, smoking and passive smoking, but much lower awareness of the link between cancer and being overweight, alcohol intake and low fruit and vegetable consumption.

Women were more likely than men to practise all the “protective” behaviours, except for being “sunsafe”.

Respondents over 50 were more likely than those aged 18-39 to be sunsafe and non-smokers, drink less alcohol and eat two or more fruit serves daily, but they were also more likely to be overweight.

There were also correlations between higher educational levels and protective behaviours.

“Historically, the largest cancer prevention campaigns in Australia have focussed on UV exposure and smoking, and they’ve been successful in raising community awareness of these risk factors,” said Associate Professor Kippen.

“But community understanding of other risk factors remains poor and it’s clear that campaigns targeted at specific audience segments, such as young people and men, are needed.”

The study is one of the first of use multiple variables to analyse the association between awareness of risk factors and health behaviour. The paper is available online at BMC Cancer.

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