Cancer researchers - take fate into your own hands

Many Australian cancer patients attribute illness to fate or bad luck

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CAUSE AND EFFECT: Researchers say a number of cancer patients are putting their illness down to fate rather than known risk factors.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: Researchers say a number of cancer patients are putting their illness down to fate rather than known risk factors.

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Cancer has many known risk factors, but many Australians are blaming it on bad luck.

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SMOKING, sun exposure, poor diet, alcohol and lack of exercise are known risk factors for cancer, but new research shows a large number of patients are still putting their illness down to fate.

Throughout the course of an international study, Australian cancer patients identified bad luck - or fate, as the third most common perceived cause of their illness - behind only age and family history.

The study was led by the University of Newcastle and Vietnam Cancer Institute, in conjunction with the University of South Australia (UniSA) and surveyed 585 cancer patients in both Australia and Vietnam.

It analysed differences across 25 possible beliefs about what may have caused their illness.

Almost half of Australian patients believed getting older was the main cause of their cancer, while most Vietnamese patients said poor diet was the likely cause.

Overall, smoking was ranked the 5th most likely cause and alcohol the 9th most likely.

UniSA researcher David Roder said there were many misconceptions about what caused cancer.

"Unfortunately, people's understanding of many cancer related risk factors is modest to low," Professor Roder said.

"People's beliefs about what may have caused their cancer are complex and likely to be impacted by multiple factors, including cultural beliefs."

There were some key differences between Australian and Vietnamese patients.

While getting older was listed as the main reason by Australian patients, it ranked a lot lower in 10th place among Vietnamese patients.

Poor diet was the top perceived cause among Vietnamese patients, while Australians ranked it 11th.

In the Australian study, patients rated bad luck as the third most likely cause, while Vietnamese patients rated it 5th.

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