Australian patients name financial pressure as top cause of cancer

Australian patients have blamed stress about money and their mortgage above smoking, obesity, and family history as the number one reason for what caused their cancer.

 An unprecedented Cancer Council survey of more than 2,850 cancer patients has revealed that nearly half of those questioned had no idea what caused their cancer, and a quarter thought that the disease could not be prevented.

 The study also revealed a gulf in the opinions of cancer patients depending on whether or not their type of cancer had a well known cause.  Breast cancer patients were 60 per cent more likely to blame stress than lung cancer patients who understood the link to smoking.

 “Breast cancer patients were the most uncertain about what caused their cancer and when faced with no tangible explanation, many blamed stress from the financial pressures of modern living,” said Associate Professor Freddy Sitas, lead study author from Cancer Council NSW’s research department.

 “Stress is linked to several health problems, but it does not cause cancer.  My big concern is that if the community is unsure about what causes the disease, people may not take the right lifestyle choices to prevent it. 

 “About 30 per cent of cancers can be prevented by making some really simple lifestyle choices such as keeping fit and active, avoiding smoking, and restricting junk food. Not only will these decisions prevent cancer, they’ll also make you feel better in everyday life.

 “People should also know their family history for hereditary conditions and make use of national cancer screening programs.” 

 Cancer Council NSW conducted this research project as part of its Cancer, Lifestyle, and Evaluation of Risk (CLEAR) study. 

Click here to read the abstract of the paper:


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Thank you to all the people who have taken part in CLEAR.

Their questionnaire data and blood samples will help us understand risk factors for cancer in NSW.

Freddy SitasAssociate Professor Freddy Sitas

“Many people think the only way to help research is to give a financial donation, but when it comes to a broad reaching study such as CLEAR, we’re totally reliant on the courage and goodwill of cancer patients in the community.”

Karen CanfelAssociate Professor Karen Canfell

“We have an enormous diversity of lifestyles: we can compare and get meaningful answers about the causes of cancer”