People are reluctant to change their unhealthy lifestyle choices even when they know they could contribute to them getting cancer, new research has found.
Four out of five smokers are not willing to kick the habit to reduce their risk of getting the disease, according to a study revealing “worrying attitudes” towards the disease.
Fifty-one per cent refused to lose weight while 60 per cent said they would not give up sunbathing or tanning beds, Merseyside NHS Trust and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust Foundation found.
While a recent study advised 90 per cent of cancers are caused by external factors, the study found people were willing to take a gamble with their health.
Of the 2010 people asked whether they would change their lifestyles to reduce their risk of cancer, just 20 per cent of the 585 smokers said they would quit.
Fifty-nine per cent were not willing to drink less, 34 per cent would not opt for a healthier diet and 54 per cent said they would not be willing to get a good night’s sleep.
Fourteen per cent said they would not change anything to reduce their risk of cancer.
Dr Peter Kirkbride, medical director of The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust, said: “A healthier lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer as well as improving general health and wellbeing.
“Eating better, moving more, drinking less alcohol and reducing sun exposure will mean you’re much less likely to develop cancer, and smokers can get lots of support to help them quit.”
The survey also revealed a “glaring lack of knowledge” about recognising the symptoms of cancer – despite 64 per cent having direct experience of the disease, researchers said.
More than half (54 per cent) of people said they would not recognise the early signs of breast cancer, which the study said was “frighteningly low”.
And more than 90 per cent said they would not recognise symptoms of other common cancers including pancreatic, ovarian and uterine (womb) cancers.
Dr Kirkbride said: “Recognising early symptoms of cancer could save your life – the sooner you’re diagnosed and start treatment, the better the outcome – but this survey has revealed that many people just don’t know what warning signs to look out for.
“On top of this, there are many types of cancer that people haven’t heard of at all. Cancer can occur anywhere in the body.
“It’s really important that we all do what we can to reduce our chances of developing cancer by leading healthier lifestyles – and that people know what symptoms to look out for and consult a healthcare professional if they develop them.
“Early diagnosis and early treatment helps save lives.”