Thursday, 16 August 2007

Are we misinformed or uninformed about the risk factors for cancer?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a recent ACS study that showed that many Americans believe scientifically unsubstantiated claims about cancer. Such beliefs include claims that cell phones, underwire bras, shampoo and deodorant can increase cancer risk. Richard Day Gore responded with a compelling question in his comment on the piece:

My questions are: where is all this mis- and dis-information coming from, and why do Americans so readily believe it? Are we misinformed or uninformed?

I believe that the biggest problem is that we are uninformed about the nature of cancer and risk factors. This creates an information vacuum that allows misinformation to seep in. This effect was seen in the study, as males were more likely to be misinformed than women as they tend to research health issues less. People with lower levels of education were also more likely to be misinformed.

Also, many of these unsubstantiated claims at one point or another had some traction in the media. Perhaps people latch onto these types of beliefs as they offer hope that cancer can be easily understood, and easily eliminated?

What do you think? Are we misinformed about the risk factors for cancer, or uninformed?

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