Most Americans are taking steps to help prevent cancer

Volume 6, Issue 4, 2017


Survey respondents have mixed feelings about the future but are hopeful about a cure for cancer.

Minetta C. Liu, M.D.

Minetta C. Liu, M.D.

Cancer is a real concern for many in the United States, according to the fourth edition of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, a national consumer health survey that provides a quick pulse on consumer health opinions and behaviors at multiple times throughout the year.

Ninety-five percent of respondents to the most recent survey said they take at least one preventive measure to avoid cancer. Approximately three-fourths said they avoid smoking (75 percent), limit alcohol consumption (74 percent) and maintain a healthy diet (72 percent). And women are significantly more likely than are men to do all three.

"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 Minetta C. Liu, M.D., a Mayo Clinic medical oncologist in Rochester, Minnesota. "The better we understand national attitudes and actions toward health, the better equipped we'll be to educate and empower healthy decisions."

Most Americans (62 percent) have experienced a cancer diagnosis personally or through a loved one, the survey results showed. When asked about the future, respondents expressed both apprehension and optimism. While 61 percent said that they are very or somewhat concerned about developing cancer in their lifetime, 78 percent said that they believe there will be a cure for cancer. Fifty-seven percent hope cancer will be cured within the next 20 years.

Still, Americans are taking the time to educate themselves and make healthy lifestyle choices that may help them avoid cancer:

  • Nine in 10 Americans are aware of their family's medical history when it comes to cancer.
  • Women are significantly more likely than are men to take preventive measures, including discussing risk and prevention with their health care providers, sleeping the recommended number of hours, and following recommended routine cancer screenings.

"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," Dr. Liu said. "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."