Mistaken belief in mythical causes of cancer is rife according to new research jointly funded by Cancer Research UK and published today (Thursday) in the European Journal of Cancer*.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Leeds surveyed 1,330 people in England and found that more than 40% wrongly thought that stress (43%) and food additives (42%) caused cancer.
A third incorrectly believed that electromagnetic frequencies (35%) and eating GM food (34%) were risk factors, while 19% thought microwave ovens and 15% said drinking from plastic bottles caused cancer despite a lack of good scientific evidence.
Among the proven causes of cancer, 88% of people correctly selected smoking, 80% picked passive smoking and 60% said sunburn.
Belief in mythical causes of cancer did not mean a person was more likely to have risky lifestyle habits.
But those who had better knowledge of proven causes were more likely not to smoke.
Dr Samuel Smith from the University of Leeds said: “It’s worrying to see so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence.
“Compared to past research it appears the number of people believing in unproven causes of cancer has increased since the
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