18-24 year olds more aware of cancer risks than over-55s

4 February 2016

Cancer tends to be a disease of older people but a poll for World Cancer Research Fund has revealed today that those over 55 are less aware of four major cancer risk factors, compared to 18 to 24 year olds[1].

Whilst ‘encouraging’ that many younger adults are aware of cancer risks associated with being overweight, drinking alcohol, eating a poor diet, and not being physically active, it is ‘worrying’ that those more at risk are less aware compared to younger adults. 

Nearly two thirds of cancer diagnoses occur in the over-65s and one-third in people aged 75 and over. It has been estimated that by 2020 there will be nearly two million people aged 65+ alive following a diagnosis of cancer[2].

The YouGov poll found that:         

  • 42% of over-55s are aware of the cancer risks associated with physical inactivity compared to 49% of 18-24 year olds
  • 53% of over-55s are aware of the cancer risks associated with alcohol compared to 60% of 18-24 year olds
  • 56% of over-55s are aware of the cancer risks associated with eating a poor diet compared to 60% of 18-24 year olds
  • 60% of over-55s are aware of the cancer risks associated with being overweight compared to 63% of 18-24 year olds

World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight – about 84,000 cases a year in the UK. A lifestyle change is never too late.

This year’s World Cancer Day (4 February) theme is ‘We Can. I Can’ and the charity is encouraging people to sign up to their ‘I CAN’ campaign so they can take action to help prevent cancer. The campaign helps people to make healthy and simple lifestyle changes that could reduce their cancer risk. People can sign up to receive email tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity by visiting www.wcrf.org/ICAN.

Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison said:

"Prevention is key. A third of the most common cancers can be prevented by making small lifestyle changes and keeping a healthy weight. It's good to see growing awareness in some age groups of the benefits of being a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet and limiting how much alcohol we drink  - and it's never too late to kick start a healthier lifestyle.”

Amanda McLean, Director at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

“It is worrying that the over-55s are the least aware of a number of cancer risks especially as the risk of cancer increases with age. The good news is that people can reduce that risk by having a healthy lifestyle.

“Getting older doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done - it’s never too late to make simple but important changes. Just cutting out sugar from tea, eating a home cooked meal instead of a takeaway or walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift can all help. The more small changes people make, the healthier they will become.  

“This World Cancer Day we hope people will say ‘I CAN cut my cancer risk’ and sign up to our email tips which can help them make lifestyle changes that could improve their health.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

Melanie Purnode, Press and PR Manager, WCRF on 020 343 4273 or pr@wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

About World Cancer Research Fund

For the past 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

Our analysis of global research shows that a third of the most common cancers are preventable through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.

For more information visit www.wcrf-uk.org, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wcrf_uk, read our blog at http://wcrf-uk.org/uk/blog or visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/wcrfuk

About the YouGov survey:

Total sample size was 2082 adults. Undertaken between 20th and 23 November 2015. The survey was carried out online. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  Available from World Cancer Research Fund.

About I CAN:

I CAN… is a World Cancer Research Fund UK campaign helping people to stick to realistic New Year’s resolutions that could reduce their risk of cancer. People can sign up to receive tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity via email by visiting www.wcrf.org/ICAN.  


[1] YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2082 adults. Undertaken between 20th and 23 November 2015. The survey was carried out online. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).  Available from World Cancer Research Fund

[2] Public Health England and NHS England’s report, Older People and Cancer, June 2015, http://www.ncin.org.uk/publications/older_people_and_cancer