Almost 80% of American adults polled for a cancer risk factor survey correctly identified tobacco use as a potential cause of the illness, but only 30% know that drinking alcohol can lead to cancer, too.
The poll, conducted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, asked over 4,000 U.S. adults what they believed does and does not cause cancer. While some of the results are positive – about 66% knew that sun exposure is a risk factor – others, not so much.
Only 31% of those polled in the National Cancer Opinion Survey were aware that obesity can lead to cancer. Next to tobacco, obesity is the second-leading preventable cause of cancer in the U.S. Most notably, obesity can lead to an increased risk of colon, breast, prostate and uterine cancers, according to the ASCO.
“That so few Americans are aware that maintaining a healthy weight is associated with lower risk for many cancers should serve as a wake-up call,” ASCO chief medical officer Dr. Richard Shilsky said in a statement. “Unfortunately, obesity is a problem that cannot be solved overnight and will require broad societal engagement to address.”
About 30% of Americans know that alcohol – which can increase the risk of mouth, liver and breast cancers – leads to the disease, and just 25% know that skipping exercise can cause cancer as well. A study from 2016 linked a lack of exercise to esophageal, liver, lung, kidney, stomach, endometrial, myeloma, colon, head, neck, rectal, bladder and breast cancers, in various degrees.