The American Cancer Society released the results of a poll in the latest edition of the journal Cancer showing that over one quarter of Americans incorrectly believe that a cure for cancer has been found but is being kept a secret for profit reasons.
The poll aimed to measure the persistence of popular cancer-related myths among the general population.
While 27% believed that money-driven health care companies were squatting on a cancer cure, an additional 14% were unsure.
Dr. Ted Gansler led the national telephone survey of 957 adults without a history of cancer. Forty-one percent of those surveyed mistakenly believed that cancer could be spread by surgery. Thirteen percent were unsure.
In fact, 75% of respondents could not correctly identify all five cancer myths as true or false. All were false, but only one in four answered correctly.
Nineteen percent believed that pain medication is ineffective in treating cancer pain, while 13% said they didn’t know.
The vast majority of people, however, were at least knowledgeable and optimistic about the medical profession’s ability to treat the disease. Eighty-nine percent didn’t buy the idea that “all you need to beat cancer is a positive attitude.” Eighty-seven percent disagreed that “cancer is something that cannot be effectively treated.”
The rate of belief in cancer myths did seem eschewed toward those with lower-incomes and less education.
“The higher the income and the higher the education, the less likely [respondents] were to believe the myths," Gansler said. "But it is worth emphasizing that, even in people with high income and high education, some still believe the myths."
Dr. Gansler said he wasn’t all that surprised with the results but found them troubling nonetheless after three decades of cancer treatment advances.
“We actually did suspect there would be a lot of gaps in the understanding of cancer," he said. "That expectation is based on the experiences with the American Cancer Society call center."
Gansler also noted that more needed to be done to educate the public.
"These results indicate that public and patient education interventions are most urgently needed in cancer centres, medical practices and other community organizations,” he said.