London, UK - More than a quarter of people in Britain think the best response to advice on cancer prevention is to ignore it completely.
The YouGov survey of 2,404 people, commissioned by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), found that 52 per cent of people believe scientists are always changing their minds and 27 per cent said that because health advice always seems to be changing, the best approach is to ignore it all and eat whatever you like.
The researchers point out rather plaintively that this is very far from being the case: most scientists agree about the steps people can take to reduce their cancer risk, they say, adding that this advice has largely stayed the same for the last 10 years.
This advice is that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through eating a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight. In terms of diet, scientists agree that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, limiting intake of red and processed meat, salt and alcohol can reduce cancer risk.
Richard Evans, Head of Communications for WCRF, said: "It is a cause for concern if people are not listening to cancer prevention advice because they have the impression that scientists are always changing their minds." He added, "A decade ago, we were recommending that people eat a plant-based diet, be physically active and maintain a healthy weight and this is still the case today. The problem is that when people hear about a single study suggesting a particular food might be good for us, it is easy to assume scientists are now telling us to start eating it."
The YouGov survey also suggested that older people are more cynical about cancer prevention advice. It found that 60 per cent of people aged 55 and over thought scientists are always changing their minds, compared to just 36 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds. It also found that 30 per cent of those aged 55 and over thought the best approach is to avoid health advice and eat what you want, compared to 19 per cent of people aged 18 to 24.
The report can be downloaded here.