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Achieving financial security at a difficult time

Research from Aviva shows that more than eight million British adults[1] (17%) admit they take no preventive action to reduce their risk of developing cancer, despite it being the most-feared serious illness in Britain.

More people are worried about being diagnosed with cancer (58%) than dementia/Alzheimer’s (45%), heart disease (34%) or a stroke (32%). Women are particularly worried about being diagnosed with cancer (62% vs 54% of men), perhaps because breast cancer – which predominantly affects women – is the most common cancer[2].

Simple lifestyle precautions

Despite this, millions are failing to take simple lifestyle precautions to reduce their risk of developing the disease. Only a third say they maintain a healthy weight (37%) or do regular exercise (37%) to help prevent the disease developing. And despite overexposure to UV radiation being the main cause of skin cancer[3], less than half (46%) minimise their exposure to the sun or use a high-factor sun cream.

Lack of understanding

An estimated four in ten cases of cancer could be prevented, largely through lifestyle changes[4]. However, the lack of action being taken to reduce the chance of developing the disease is partly due to poor understanding among British adults of the factors that increase cancer risk.

Ambivalent about cancer

This lack of understanding is worsened by conflicting reports on the causes of cancer. More than half (54%) of British adults say they feel confused by reports of what to do and what not to do to reduce their risk. Among these, 26% say it makes them feel worried about what to do for the best, while 21% become ambivalent about cancer advice as a result.

British adults positive

Positivity about the progress being made in treatments and survival rates for cancer could be another reason people are failing to take preventive measures. More than three quarters of British adults (78%) expect to see cancer survival rates improve over the next 20 years, while four in five (82%) believe cancer drugs and treatments will improve in the same period.

People are also optimistic that a cure for cancer will be found in the next 50 years, with half (50%) in agreement.

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Source data

All percentages and figures shown in this release (unless otherwise cited) come from an online survey conducted by ICM research for Aviva UK Health. The survey was carried out in December 2015. Respondents were invited from ICM’s online panel, and 2,004 interviews were conducted amongst a nationally representative sample of the British adult population.

[1] GB adult population (aged 18 and over) is 48,455,600 according to ONS census data (2011). 17% of adult population = 8,237,452
[2] Cancer Research UK
[3] Cancer Research UK
[4] Cancer Research UK