School children are more concerned about the risk of losing someone with cancer than the impact of terrorism and war, according to a MORI survey for Cancer Research UK.
The poll revealed that nearly two-thirds of 2,600 school children in England and Wales find cancer a greater cause of worry than terrorism and war in Afghanistan.
It also shows that 41 per cent of 11-16 year olds know someone who has had the disease.
The survey was commissioned by Cancer Research UK to establish the level of anxiety children feel about the disease. The results highlight the need for more cancer information to be made available to school children.
The survey shows that as children move into their later teens their level of anxiety about cancer sharply increases – 74 per cent of the 15-16 year old respondents cite the disease as being more of a concern than terrorism or war in Afghanistan.
The poll also reveals both gender and geographic variations in children’s experience of the disease. Girls are more likely than boys to have known someone with cancer – 46 per cent of girls compared to 36 per cent of boys, suggesting that relatives may be more inclined to tell girls than boys, or that girls have a greater understanding of cancer than boys.
A geographic split is also suggested by the results. The proportion of children reporting a relative with cancer peaks in the North East with 52 per cent. However only 27 per cent of children in London say they have known someone close to them with cancer, probably representing the young age profile in the capital.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK’s Information Director says: “Cancer it seems, has become one of the major worries of a generation. Over the next year we are planning to develop a range of web-based resources that will help both students and teachers understand cancer better.
“Not only will this reduce fear of the disease we hope it will encourage more schoolchildren to take up the challenge of a career in cancer research,” she adds.
Sir Paul Nurse, Interim Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “Cancer mainly affects older people, but we hope we can encourage young people to adopt lifestyle measures that can help prevent the disease when they are older.”
The research was part of the MORI Schools Omnibus survey. 2,660 interviews were conducted among schoolchildren aged 11-16 in England and Wales. Self completion questionnaires were completed in 114 classroom sessions between 14 January and 8 March 2002. Data have been weighted by gender, age and region.
Girls were also more likely to be worried about terrorism than boys (52 per cent compared with 41 per cent).