The Meeting Place

Is getting cancer just bad luck?

What role does fate play when it comes to the 145,000 people diagnosed with cancer each year in Australia and 125,000 people in Vietnam?

Smoking, sun exposure, poor diet, alcohol consumption and inadequate exercise are proven risk factors for many types of cancer, but new research shows this message is not getting through to many patients.

According to an international study led by the University of Newcastle and the Vietnam Cancer Institute, and involving the University of South Australia (UniSA), Australian cancer patients identified ‘bad luck’ or fate as the third most common perceived cause of their cancer – behind age and family history.

The study compared the perceptions between 585 cancer patients in Australia and Vietnam, analysing differences across 25 possible beliefs about what may have caused their cancer.

Almost half of the Australian cancer patients believed “getting older” was the main cause of their cancer, while most Vietnamese patients cited “poor diet” as the main contributing factor of their cancer.

Overall, smoking was ranked the fifth most likely cause and alcohol the ninth most likely cause. This is despite repeated health messages that many cancers are preventable, and alcohol and smoking are both high risk factors for many cancer types.

UniSA’s Professor David Roder says there are many misconceptions about what causes cancer.

“Unfortunately, people’s understanding of many cancer-related risk factors is modest to low. People’s beliefs about what may have caused their cancer are complex and likely to be impacted by multiple factors, including cultural beliefs,” he says.

The survey revealed some significant differences between Australian and Vietnamese cancer patients, including:

  • “Getting older” was listed as the main cause of cancer by the Australian patients; the Vietnamese cancer patients ranked it a lot lower, in 10th place;
  • “Poor diet” was the top perceived cause of cancer among the Vietnamese patients, while Australian patients ranked diet in 11th place;
  • “Air pollution” was listed as the second main cause of cancer by Vietnamese participants, whereas Australian patients listed it in 10th place;
  • Australians ranked “alcohol” as the 12th contributing factor to causing cancer and “lack of exercise” as the 17th. Vietnamese listed “alcohol” in seventh place and “lack of exercise” in 12th place.

 

The two cultures gave similar rankings in just four areas: smoking (fifth overall), mental illness (20), prescribed medication (23) and injury or physical trauma (25).

Researcher Dr Alix Hall, one of the study leaders, says a substantial proportion of both Australian (27 per cent) and Vietnamese (47 per cent) patients held fatalistic views about the possible causes of their cancer.

“In the Australian sample, ‘bad luck’ was ranked third and in the Vietnamese sample it was ranked fifth.

“This is concerning because it suggests they believe they have little control over their health. 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,” Dr Hall says.

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

7 comments

It's bad luck if you were born with an inherited cancer gene. 15-20% of all cancers are hereditary. But sheer stupidity if you ignore some of the other causes of cancer, like smoking, sun exposure, bad diet and lifestyle.

With you on this Aviator.

Hmm! tell a child under the age of two dying of cancer with two healthy parents from healthy families of the past generations those theories! Alot of what we are consuming and slapping on our bodies e.g. makeup and other so called miracles products and nearly EVERYTHING we eat and drink has a chemical in it that the human body was not meant to have in it!....we are poisoning ourselves and cancer is just one of the side effects.

Well its not good luck is it!

Over the many years I have heard and read of all of the supposed causes of cancer; sun, bruising, BBQ's, smoking, alcohol, mobile phones, leaded petrol, hereditary factors and the list goes on. The above article highlights that really we just don't know the actual cause. What we do know is that giant steps have been made in the identification of cancer and in a lot of cases early detection can lead to a satisfactory outcome. We get blood tests each year to help identify any problems and I can only urge those who don't to think seriously about starting. It may not stop one getting cancer but it may provide an early warning which, in turn, may assist with early intervention. 

There is a common thread among blood cancer patients.  It is exposure to chemicals.  There is a lot more blood cancer, especially Multiple Myeloma in the countryside compared to cities and this is attributed to the chemicals used in aerial and ground spraying on crops.  We think the air is clean in the country but this is not so while farmers are allowed by the government to spray chemicals that we all breathe.  In my smaller circle of people I know with Myeloma it was the chemicals the patients were exposed to in the aviation industry many years ago when people used to build their own planes from wood and fabric and this includes models.  It definitely needs  to be investigated and the oncologists are coming to the same conclusion.  Unfortunately our governments support farmers, trade and the all important dollar sign - not our health!  Germany has put a ban on farmers spraying chemicals but, sadly, I don't think the Australian government is that advanced in its thinking yet.  Meanwhile more and more young people are getting blood cancer and suffering.

I've always thought that cancer might be a VIRUS which affects people when certain conditions are prevelant in the body.

Time will tell what this terrible disease is and why some people get it whilst others don't.  Until then fingers crossed.

Interesting thought, MICK.

Terrific news about the new prostate cancer trials.

@grumpyoldwoman 

EVERYTHING we eat and drink has a chemical in it that the human body was not meant to have in it!....we are poisoning ourselves and cancer is just one of the side effects.

There is a lot of truth in what you say

BTW ...Welcome back

7 comments