The average person in the US has about a 50% chance of being diagnosed with some form of cancer, according to a new study that surveyed more than 3,500 people in the country.
The researchers at the University of Illinois and Boston University said that people’s perception of their risk has changed dramatically in the past 30 years, from a baseline of about 10% of people being diagnosed as cancer, to about 25% today.
But they also said that the new survey results show that people have a hard time telling the difference between being diagnosed and not, which may have been the reason the study did not include more information about cancer.
“When people are told that their risk is 20% higher than it used to be, the number of people who say they do not want to get cancer increases,” said co-author Robert S. Lefkowitz, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the university’s Booth School of Business.
“The more people hear about the number, the less likely they are to get tested for cancer.”
The researchers also said the survey’s results are not surprising, given that the American Cancer Society has said that in the last 30 years there has been a 50-to-1 increase in the incidence of cancer.
But their findings also suggest that the rate of cancer diagnosis and death has not risen with the population size of the US, as previously thought, but has been trending downward over the past decade.
They also pointed out that many of the survey respondents had not yet received treatment for cancer.
The new study found that most people who were diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. in the 1980s, for example, were only diagnosed once, and did not have a treatment plan in place, Lefky said.
People’s perceptions of their chance of getting cancer have also changed dramatically over time, according the researchers, with those who had never had cancer now seeing a 50%-to-100% chance that they will be diagnosed.
And they also noted that people who had been diagnosed as a child now have a 50 to 1 chance of becoming diagnosed with the disease, compared to the previous view.
Lefky, who presented his findings at a conference in Chicago last week, said the results of the new study are important because it provides insight into how people think about their risk.
“People are looking for clues in the data, but it’s really hard to figure out if they’re right or not,” he said.
“It could be that people are overestimating their risk because they’ve been told that it’s 20%, but they may be overestimating because they didn’t have a plan in case they were diagnosed.”SOURCE: bit.ly/2xqK2Y2 American Cancer Societies (ACS) press release, March 14, 2021