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France ― Conducted every 5 years since 2005, the Cancer Survey documents the knowledge, perceptions, and way of life of the French people in relation to cancer. The French National Cancer Institute (InCA), in partnership with Public Health France (SPF), how long can ketamine be detected in your system has published the results of its 2021 survey. The researchers analyzed responses to telephone interviews of a representative sample of almost 5000 individuals aged 15 to 85 years.

This study shows how thinking has changed over time and how difficult it is to alter preconceived notions.

Is Cancer Hereditary?

The report shows that 67.7% of respondents believe that cancer is a hereditary disease. Respondents were asked to explain their answer. “Data show that medical practices for cancer treatment substantiate this belief [that cancer is hereditary],” wrote the authors of the report.

“Indeed, healthcare professionals almost systematically ask questions about family history of breast cancer and, when a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, medical monitoring of other family members is often sought out, thus reinforcing the belief that cancer is hereditary,” they said.

Furthermore, there seems to be confusion regarding the role of genes in the development of cancer. A person can inherit cancer-predisposing genes, not cancer itself. The authors highlighted their concern that this confusion may “lead people to think that prevention measures are unnecessary because cancer is inherited.”

Misconceptions About Smoking

About 41% of smokers think that the length of time one has been smoking is the biggest determining factor for developing cancer; 58.1% think the number of cigarettes smoked per day has a bigger impact.

Experts at InCA and SPF put the debate to rest, stating that prolonged exposure to carcinogenic substances is far more toxic. As for the danger threshold concerning the number of cigarettes smoked per day, respondents believed this to be 9.2 cigarettes per day, on average. They believed that the danger threshold for the number of years as an active smoker is 13.4, on average.

“The [survey] respondents clearly understand that smoking carries a risk, but many smokers think that light smoking or smoking for a short period of time doesn’t carry any risks.” Yet it is understood that even occasional tobacco consumption increases mortality.

This was not the only misconception regarding smoking and its relationship with cancer. About 34% of survey respondents agreed with the following statement: “Smoking doesn’t cause cancer unless you’re a heavy smoker and have smoked for a long time.” Furthermore, 43.3% agreed with the statement, “Pollution is more likely to cause cancer than smoking,” 54.6% think that “exercising cleans your lungs of tobacco,” and 61.6% think that “a smoker can prevent developing cancer caused by smoking if they know to quit on time.”

Overweight and Obesity

Although diet and excess weight represent the third and fourth biggest avoidable cancer risk factors, after smoking and alcohol, only 30% of survey respondents knew of this link.

“Among the causes of cancer known and cited by respondents without prompting, excessive weight and obesity were mentioned only 100 times out of 12,558 responses,” highlighted the authors of the report. The explanation put forward by the authors is that discourse about diet has been more focused on diet as a protective health factor, especially in preventing cardiovascular diseases. “The link between cancer and diet is less prominent in the public space,” they noted.

Breastfeeding and Cancer

About 63% of survey respondents, which for the first time included both women and men, believe that breastfeeding does not affect mothers’ risk of breast cancer, but this is a misconception. And almost 1 in 3 respondents said that breastfeeding provides health benefits for the mother.

Artificial UV Rays

Exposure to UV rays, whether of natural or artificial origin, is a major risk factor for skin cancer. However, 1 in 5 people (20.9%) think that a session in a tanning bed is less harmful than sun exposure.

Daily Stress

Regarding psychological factors linked to cancer, the authors noted that risk factors not supported by scientific evidence were, ironically, cited more often by respondents than proven risk factors. There is a real knowledge gap between scientific data and the beliefs of the French people. For example, “working at night” is largely not seen as a risk factor, but data show that it presents a clear risk. However, “not being able to express one’s feelings,” “having been weakened by traumatic experiences,” and “being exposed to the stress of modern life” are seen as risk factors of cancer, without any scientific evidence.

e-Cigarettes and Cigarettes

About 53% of respondents agreed that “e-cigarettes are just as harmful or more harmful than traditional cigarettes.” Nicotine and the flavors in e-cigarettes are largely perceived as “very” or “extremely” harmful to the health of a person. However, the authors note that “no published study on nicotine substitutes has shown harmful effects on the health of a person, let alone determined it a risk factor for cancer. The nicotine doses in e-cigarettes are similar to traditional nicotine substitutes, and no cytotoxic effect of nicotine in its inhaled form has been found.” There seems to be confusion between dependence and risk of cancer.

Alcohol Consumption

Eight of 10 respondents believe that “some people can drink a lot of alcohol all their life without ever getting cancer,” which goes against the scientific literature. The authors of the report state that the negative effects of alcohol on health seem poorly understood. Although alcohol is the second biggest cause of cancer, only a third of survey respondents cited it without having been prompted as one of the main causes of cancer. And 23.5% even think that “in terms of decreasing your risk of cancer, it’s better to drink a little wine than to drink no wine at all.”

This article was translated from the Medscape French edition.

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