Majority of Britons have not changed lifestyle to reduce cancer risk

In collaboration with the Press Association

Nearly two thirds of British people have not altered their diet or lifestyle to reduce their risk of cancer, according to a poll conducted for a BBC Newsnight Cancer special.

The programme, which was screened on Monday night, looked at the latest scientific progress in cancer research and revealed the results of a survey of 1,002 British adults in March this year.

Researchers found that 64 per cent of Britons have not followed health experts' advice to improve their diet and lifestyle in order to reduce their risk of cancer.

Three fifths of respondents felt that the government's advice on ways to change diet and lifestyle to reduce cancer risk was clear; yet only 36 per cent have acted on this advice.

However, 28 per cent claimed that they did not have enough information about the symptoms of any of the four most common forms of cancer - breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer.

Over a third - 34 per cent - admitted that they tried not to think about cancer while a further 32 per cent said that they think about it sometimes and try to be well informed.

Just a third said that they do as much as they can to be informed about cancer.

Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of CancerPartnersUK, told the BBC that the general public appear to contradict themselves.

"They want more information, but when they get it they don't do anything about it," he observed.

"It's very difficult for governments, whatever their politics are, to tread the fine line between a nanny state and telling people what they need to know."

Commenting on the Newsnight survey, Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "It's encouraging that one in three say they are doing as much as they can to be informed about cancer. But what's important is that they act upon it and 64 per cent of those asked said they don't.

"We know that our lifestyles can have a serious impact on our risk of many cancers, so we'd hope to see more people willing to make appropriate lifestyle changes - not only to reduce cancer risk, but for better health and wellbeing all round.

"Most people know that smoking is the single most important cause of cancer, yet more young people are still starting every day."

The survey also revealed that 64 per cent of people regard cancer treatment in the UK as 'fairly good' and 13 per cent as 'excellent'.

The vast majority of women - 95 per cent - said they would contact their GP immediately if they discovered a breast lump and 85 per cent of men said they would get in touch with their family doctor if they were having difficulty passing urine.

Ms Hiom continued: "It's encouraging that many people say they would contact their GP if they noticed anything unusual - if cancer is detected early it is much more likely to be treated successfully. Let's hope they actually do so in practice."