According to a survey, baby boomers are less familiar than young adults about the link between poor nutrition or alcohol and an increased risk of cancer.
In the survey commissioned by World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) and conducted by YouGov, more than 2,000 adults in the UK were asked if they believe that different habits and activities are associated with an increased risk of cancer.
The results show that many adults do not know how their lifestyle can affect their chances of developing such diseases.
While 66% of 18-24 year olds rightly believe poor diets increase cancer risk, only 58% of baby boomers agree, while alcohol figures 64% and 59%, respectively.
The reverse trend was seen in the processing of meat. Only 48% of 18-24 year-olds recognized this as an increased risk of cancer, compared with 62% of those over 55 years old. The World Health Organization has placed meat such as bacon, ham and sausage in the same category as smoking when it comes to the evidence of cancer.
19% of 18 to 24-year-olds believe that coffee increases cancer risk, compared to only 8% of baby boomers. Studies have shown that the drink can actually protect against cancer.
And while 80% of baby boomers found a link between genetics and cancer and 91% thought that smoking was a risk factor, only 74% and 82% of 25-34 year-olds gave the same answers.
Susannah Brown, Deputy Research Director at the WCRF, said the study showed interesting trends. "Different age groups seem to be aware of the different risk factors, and this may indicate that the sources they use may be able to influence that kind of information," she said, adding that one possibility is that young adults could be this You can refer to health information from social media rather than traditional news agencies.
Brown added that the coffee confusion was due, at least in part, to the news that a California-based judge was in favor of a cancer alert for coffee produced during the roasting process, which was rejected by experts. "Ultimately, our evidence shows that coffee does not increase the risk of cancer and potentially reduces the risk," said Brown.
The new survey also showed that perceptions of cancer risks differed by social stratum, with people in the middle class apparently understanding the links between cancer and different lifestyle factors: 69% linked poor nutrition to cancer, compared to only 52% the working class people.
"We recognize that socioeconomic status has health implications, and it may turn out that it's from awareness-raising to habits that could potentially affect that," Brown said.
Brown added that while there is still work to do to spread the message as to which lifestyle factors increase cancer risk, the results also include good news. "We showed that there [is] awareness of many of the risk factors for cancer, and most positively, these are modifiable risk factors. "
Katie Patrick from Cancer Research UK agreed, but said that diets do not depend on the individual choice. "Changing the habits we've had for a long time can be difficult, and while there are changes we can make ourselves, the government has a big role to play in making healthy choices easy for everyone."