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Bad luck, getting older, family history: patients nominate cause of their cancer

Bad luck.

That’s what over a quarter of Australia cancer patients put their cancer diagnosis down to.

In the paper ‘What Caused my Cancer?', published in Cancer Control, researchers asked 585 cancer patients in Australia and Vietnam about 25 possible causes.

The authors were concerned that the high ‘bad luck or fate’ response suggests many believe they have little control over their health.

Hunter Medical Research Institute's Dr Alix Hall said: “That may affect their willingness to change their behaviour when it comes to diet and lifestyle, and influence their decisions relating to treatment and/or care.”

The researchers said the study findings underline why public health campaigns need to highlight accurate information about the possible causes of cancer.

Still, they added that these fatalistic beliefs might help patients adjust to or cope with a diagnosis and avoid self-blame.

Almost half of Australian cancer patients believed ‘getting older’ was the main cause of their cancer. That was followed by ‘family history or genes’.

They put ‘sun exposure’ down at number 4, while smoking was in 5th place.

Professor David Roder, University of South Australia research chair of Cancer Epidemiology and Population Health, said there are many misconceptions about what causes cancer.

“Unfortunately, people’s understanding of many cancer-related risk factors is modest to low,” Roder said.

“People’s beliefs about what may have caused their cancer are complex and likely to be impacted by multiple factors, including cultural beliefs."

The team said staying aware of the issues that are being highly publicised in the media may assist healthcare providers address any misconceptions that patients may hold.

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