There are a number of habitsthat put us at greater risk of cancer and almost as many things we can do to decrease that risk.
But knowingwhat those habits are can be a bit more difficult, especially with new evidencecoming in all the time clarifying what we know and don’t know about those risks.
To help get a sense of what the public knows, the American Institute for Cancer Research surveyed about 1,000 people about whether or not certain factors had an effect on whether a person develops cancer.
In a new report out Wednesday, the AICR detailed the cancer risks Americans are good at identifying, the ones they’re not so good at knowing, and the ones they tend to get wrong.
GMOs no conclusive link to cancer
Genetically modified organisms have beencontroversial, but there haven’t been any conclusive links between GMOs and cancer, Alice Bender, the head of nutrition programs at the AICR, told Business Insider.
Even though that linkhas been inclonclusive, 54%of those surveyedbelieved eating GMOs hada significant impact on whether a person develops cancer.
Beef hormones no conclusive link to cancer
The same holdstrue for hormones in beef, another case where there isn’t enough evidence to link them to an increased cancer risk.
Still, 52%of those that responded to the survey saidthey believed that hormones in beefhave a significant impacton whether a person develops cancer.
Diets high in fat and sugar no conclusive link to cancer
The links between diets high in fat or high in sugar are inconclusive so far, according to AICR. When it comes to sugar in particular, diets high in the substance have been linked to obesity, an established cancer risk. But on its own, the evidence isn’t quite there especially when it comes to claims that sugar can lead to cancer spreading more quickly (sugar feeds all cells, not cancer cells disproportionately, according to the MDAnderson Cancer Center).
Though the link isn’t proven, 44%of those surveyed said they believed a diet high in fathad a significant impact onwhether a person develops cancer, and 28% said the same about sugar.
Stress unclear if there’s a link to cancer
Stress may be linked to other heath problems, but when it comes to increasing your risk of cancer, the evidence is unclear.
Even so, 56%of those surveyedbelievedstresshad a significant effect on whether a person develops cancer.
Coffee potentially positive link to preventing cancer
In June 2016, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer(IARC)“found no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee.” However, the agency did find that hot beverages “probably causes” cancer of the esophagus a type of cancer that’s not very common.
And in fact, coffee consumption could have a positive impact on things. According to the AICR, coffee consumption could lower your risk for liver and endometrial cancers.
But not as many realized the benefits that coffee has on cancer risk. Only 10% of those that responded to the surveyof those surveyedbelieved coffee hada significant impact on whether a person develops cancer.
Obesity well-established links to cancer
Obesity has been linked with increased risks of certain cancers, including pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, breast, and thyroid cancer, according to the National Cancer Instititue.
Although it’s a fairly well-established link, only half of those surveyedbelievedthat being overweight or obese had a significantimpact on whether a person develops cancer.
Inactivity clear links to cancer
The evidence is pretty clear that there’s a link between exercise and your cancer risk namely, being active can reduce your risk for certain kinds of cancer. And studies havefound that the risk of developing breast cancer is lower for women who are active than those who are inactive.
Still, just39%of those surveyedbelieved thatnot getting enough exercisehad a significant impacton whether a person develops cancer.
Alcohol growing evidence of a definite link to cancer
The evidence of alcohol’s association with an increased cancer risk has been growing, and researchers have linked it to an increased risk of head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers.
At the same time though, awareness has been dipping: Only39% of those surveyedbelieveddrinking alcoholhad a significant impact onwhether a person develops cancer, a lower percentage than it was when the survey beganin 2001.
Red meat or cured meat linked in recent years to cancer
In 2015, the World Health Organization published a paper linking cancer to processed and red meats, in particular processed meats and colorectal cancer.
Still, only about35%of those surveyedbelievedeating a diet high in red meathad a significant impacton whether a person develops cancer, while 40% said the same about processedmeats like bacon and hot dogs.
Genetics well-established links to cancer
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Certain mutations in our DNA can predispose us to an increased risk of cancer (like the BRCA genes, which takes your risk for breast cancer from7% to an average of 55-65%when you have the BRCA1 or 2 gene mutation.
And87%of those surveyedbelievedan inherited predisposition to cancer has a significant effect of whether a person develops the disease.
Still, the AICR noted, cancers related to these mutated genesonly make up 5-10% of all cancers meaning other factors can play a critical role in the majorityof othercancer cases.
Tobacco clear and established links to multiple types of cancer
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty
There were some factors that were almost universally recognized as linked to increased cancer risks, including tobacco, which is a cause of a number of different kinds of cancer.
And 93%of those surveyed understood thattobaccohas a significant effect on whether a person develops cancer.
Sun exposure well-established links to cancer