How “average Americans” think about cancer today


Earlier this year the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) worked with the Harris Poll to put in place ASCO’s first annual National Cancer Opinion Survey. We thought many of our readers might be interested in the findings.

The survey addressed Americans’ perceptions of and attitudes about cancer. It was conducted online by the Harris Poll between July 10 and July 18 this year, and it included responses from 4,016 American adults aged 18 years and older.

According to ASCO, in a message sent out to cancer advocates like your sitemaster, the key findings included the following:

  • Fewer than one-third of Americans (31 percent) realize that obesity is a risk factor for cancer, even though it is currently the second leading preventable cause of the disease.
  • Fewer than one in three Americans (30 percent) recognize alcohol as a risk factor for cancer, despite the fact that alcohol consumption can raise the risk of certain cancers, including cancers of the mouth, liver and breast.
  • The majority of Americans are not taking some important preventive actions to reduce their cancer risk: only 48 percent use sunblock or limit their exposure to the sun, 41 percent maintain a healthy weight, and 38 percent limit alcohol consumption to prevent cancer.
  • Nearly three in four Americans (73 percent) say the government should spend more to develop cancer treatments and cures, even if it means higher taxes or adding to the deficit.
  • More than one-third of Americans report having firsthand experience with cancer: 4 percent have or had cancer themselves, and 32 percent have an immediate family member who has or had cancer.
  • One in four Americans (27 percent) who have had cancer or have an immediate family member who has had cancer are forgoing treatment or physician visits because of the expense.

The full results of this survey are available on line and — as far as your sitemaster can tell — they are accessible to anyone who is interested (i.e., not just ASCO members). ASCO intends to repeat this survey on an annual basis.

Some things that your sitemaster noted in looking through the detailed slides included the following:

  • Prostate cancer is perceived to be one of the four most survivable types of cancer. It was chosen as the most survivable by 10 percent  of respondents — but you could only choose one of multiple options (see slide 17 in the actual slide deck).
  • Prostate cancer was the third most commonly experienced form of cancer among those surveyed — including actual patients and their loved ones/caregivers (see slide 38).

Obviously a lot of the information in this slide deck is not specific to prostate cancer, but it may still be of considerable interest to many in the prostate cancer community.

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