Introduction With at least one third of cancers being preventable, modifying patients’ lifestyle factors (weight, diet, smoking, alcohol, physical activity) should be an essential role for medical professionals although many feel unprepared.1,2,3This survey investigated the knowledge of future doctors on the important link between lifestyle factors and cancer.
Method A Google Survey was sent to students at 7 U. K. medical schools using social media websites. Students provided their year of study, age and university. Students answered 9 questions (MCQs to short answer questions) on: knowledge of lifestyle factors and cancer; sources of information and type of clinicians witnessed giving lifestyle advice.
Results 218 students (mean 21 years; range 18–32) completed the survey during the 14-day timeframe. Almost all responders (>98%) recognised diet, alcohol, smoking and exercise were lifestyle factors); only 69% recorded that weight was a lifestyle factor. When asked about which cancers were affected by lifestyle factors: lung (96% of responders), liver (95%) and colorectal (85%) were the commonest; only 66% reported breast. Students were asked to describe which lifestyle factor impacted on which cancer with the majority reporting smoking/lung cancer, and alcohol/liver cancer; <5% reported physical activity or weight as being linked to any cancer. 96% of responders thought lifestyle factors were important in causing cancer, 85% in treating cancer and 83% after cancer treatment.
77% of students had teaching at University on lifestyle factors and cancer with only 34% reporting this as good/very good. Students witnessed lifestyle advice to cancer patients mainly by GPs (60%) or consultants (39%).
Conclusion Medical students across the UK. report understanding of the relationship of lifestyle factors in certain cancers. However, this knowledge appears be limited to widely known relationships, rather than an understanding that all lifestyle factors, including weight and physical activity, affect almost all cancers. Universities are in a unique position to improve knowledge that could lead to improved cancer prevention.
Disclosure of interest None Declared.
World Health Organisation. Cancer Prevention. www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/Last accessed 27th February 2015
Cancer Research UK. Statistics on preventable cancers. www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/causes/preventable/Last accessed 27th February 2015
Anderson AS, Caswell S, Wells M, Steele RJ. Obesity and lifestyle advice in colorectal cancer survivors - how well are clinicians prepared? Colorectal Dis. 2013;15(8):949–57