With some statistics predicting that one in two individuals will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, people are increasingly taking their health into their own hands in an attempt to reduce their risk. The most recent Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, a biannual survey that seeks to gather Americans’ opinions and behaviours as they relate to cancer, found that 95 percent of the over 1,100 adult respondents reported that they take one or more preventive measures to improve their odds of going through life cancer-free.
“Cancer affects millions of Americans each year, including those in treatment and those supporting their loved ones. It’s not easy to talk about cancer, but this edition of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup opens the door for dialogue,” said Dr. Minetta Liu, medical oncologist at Mayo Clinic. “The better we understand national attitudes and actions toward health, the better equipped we’ll be to educate and empower healthy decisions.”
The preventive measures employed by the survey participants varied, with 75 percent reporting that they avoid smoking to lower their cancer risk. About 74 percent answered that they limit their alcohol consumption, with 72 percent reporting that they maintain a healthy diet.
Interestingly, the study found that women were more likely to make all three of these lifestyle choices, compared to men.
While 78 percent of respondents said they believe we’ll see a cure for cancer, this optimism isn’t stopping them from educating themselves about their risk. Ninety percent of Americans are familiar with their family’s medical history as it relates to cancer.
“The good news is that many positive lifestyle choices that promote overall health and wellness can also play a role in decreasing the risk of cancer,” said Dr. Liu. “Genetics are a factor in some cancers, but almost all cancers develop spontaneously with contributions from environmental and lifestyle factors. It is always a good idea to maintain a healthy diet, engage in physical activity and stay away from smoking.”
Cancer screening, and in some cases vaccination, are important aspects to prevention, however the Mayo Clinic found that for skin, colorectal and HPV-related cancers, there was room for improvement. Only 30 percent of those surveyed said they or their close family had, or planned to receive, the HPV vaccine.
Just over half of the respondents said they have had a formal skin check for skin cancer, despite over 90 percent of people saying they would be comfortable discussing suspicious moles with their doctor. Even though 85 percent of Americans said they would be willing to take a non-invasive screening test for colorectal cancer, only 41 percent were aware of the Cologuard test, an early-detection diagnostic for the disease which uses a patient’s stool sample.
“Cancer is formidable, but it’s encouraging to see survival rates increasing for many types of cancer. This change is fueled by improvements in cancer screening and treatment, like Cologuard and the HPV vaccine,” said Dr. Liu. “At Mayo Clinic, we provide the most comprehensive cancer care available today, but we’re also researching and developing new methods of prevention to benefit all Americans in the future.”