Birmingham’s under 10’s show a shocking disregard for their health with two thirds admitting to smoking – according to a Cancer Research UK survey1.

Two thirds of the children quizzed said they never covered up in the sun and the same proportion of girls claimed they rarely ate vegetables. The majority of girls and boys didn’t worry about their future health.

But the good news is that by the time the children become teenagers some have modified their bad habits. Figures for smoking among 13-16 year-olds dropped to one-third and half said they ate vegetables every day.

Well over half the teenagers worried about their future health and three quarters of them would change their habits to reduce the risk of illness in adulthood.

The children answered questions on science, health and lifestyle habits at the Tomorrow’s World roadshow in Birmingham where they were entertained by a travelling pop band, created by Cancer Research UK.

The all-singing, all-dancing band performed a music spectacular designed to inform teenagers about science and cancer.

The band has been performing with the help of an interactive space capsule and science information robot to help put across the charity’s message: to overcome cancer through education, fundraising, recruitment, lifestyle and research.

By stimulating children’s interest in science the charity is hoping that more youngsters will be inspired to take up a career working in the fight against cancer.

Half the Birmingham children aged 10-16 said they were excited by science. But fewer than 10 per cent of the boys and only 12 per cent of the girls wanted to be a doctor or nurse.

The most popular career choice for all girls in that age group was to be a pop star. For boys aged 10-12 the most popular job was a sportsperson but computer expert topped the choice for teenage boys closely followed by pop star.

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Information at Cancer Research UK, says: “We know that children aged 11 to 16 are actively making decisions that will influence their future health.

“It’s crucial that Cancer Research UK gets in early to inform these kids and encourages them to form healthy habits for life. Using a pop band to get this message across is a fantastic idea.

“It’s very easy to presume that we know how kids feel. We believe that we have a lot to learn about children’s attitudes and their aspirations for the future and the more we understand, the easier it will be for us to help.”


  1. More than 500 people took part in the survey


A recent study showed that sunburn in childhood can double the risk of malignant melanoma in adulthood.

It’s estimated that 80 per cent of lifetime exposure to the sun is before the age of 21.

One in five children aged 4 to 18 eat little or no fruit and on average children eat less than two portions a day.

The incidence of cancer is the UK is increasing. In 1998 there were 7,000 extra cases of the disease compared to 1994.

National statistics for 2000 revealed that 10 per cent of pupils aged 11-15 were regular cigarette smokers (defined as usually smoking at least one cigarette a week) – a drop from 13 per cent in 1996. Although 10 per cent were classed as regular smokers figures showed that 17 per cent of pupils had smoked at least one cigarette in the previous week. Only one per cent of 11 year olds were regular smokers compared with 23 per cent of 15 year olds.

Cancer Research UK recently launched ‘Help A Friend To Stop Smoking’. The project teaches school children how to offer support and effective and realistic advice to friends trying to kick the habit. It develops listening and communication skills and coaches children in how to deal with confidential subjects. It is designed to fit into a school’s curriculum as either a module in Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) or Science classes. The plan is available from the Cancer Research UK website.