Cancer is our greatest fear, a Cancer Research UK survey reveals today. Over a quarter of Brits say cancer is the thing they most fear, topping the list over Alzheimer’s, heart attack and terrorism.

But the survey of 4,000 people also shows that the majority don’t realise approximately how many cases of cancer could be prevented by lifestyle factors. While two thirds of people underestimated the proportion of cancers that can be prevented, only 1 in 5 correctly said that half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes.

The news comes on the day that Cancer Research UK launches its Cancer Awareness Roadshows – two mobile information units which will be touring the UK over the next 12 months to raise awareness of how we can reduce the risk of cancer and spot the signs of it at an early stage. The Roadshows are fronted by pop icon Ronan Keating and are a partnership with the Marie Keating Foundation.

Ronan Keating said: “Because I lost my mother to breast cancer, I understand how frightening the disease can be. I’m really pleased to be backing these Roadshows because I believe that knowing more about how cancer can be prevented or picked up early will take away some of the fear and ultimately help to save lives.”

Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, Dr Lesley Walker said: “Even though survival for most types of cancer is better now than it ever has been, this survey highlights just how frightened we are of getting cancer.

Crucially the survey highlights a lack of awareness about how many cancers could be avoided. If people know what they can do to help prevent the disease, we hope that it will allay some fears.

“We’re asking people to step on board our Roadshows to find out what they can do to help lower their cancer risk.

“While on board, visitors can talk to a nurse in our private consultation room, pick up one of our health information leaflets, play our interactive quiz or put their lungs to the test with our smokelisers.”

The Roadshows, which will be making their first stops in Newcastle and Walsall today, will highlight five key lifestyle factors which are known to reduce the risk of cancer and increase the chances of spotting it early. These are:

  • Stop smoking – It’s the best present you’ll ever give yourself
  • Stay in shape – Be active and keep a healthy body weight
  • Eat and drink healthily – Limit alcohol and choose a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Be SunSmart – Protect yourself in the sun and take care not to burn
  • Look after number one – Know your body and see your doctor about anything unusual. Go for screening when invited

To find out more about the Roadshows or how to reduce the risk of cancer, visit Reduce the Risk.


For media enquiries contact the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8300.


There are over 276,000 new cases of cancer every year in the UK. Around half of these could be prevented by changes to lifestyle.

The results of the survey were:

Which of the following do you fear most?

  • Cancer – 26 per cent
  • Alzheimer’s – 18 per cent
  • Heart attack – 11 per cent
  • Terrorism – 8 per cent
  • Car accidents – 7 per cent
  • Murder – 7 per cent
  • Motor neurone disease – 5 per cent
  • Plane crashes – 4 per cent

What proportion or percentage of cancers do you think could be prevented by changes to lifestyle?

  • 1 in 100 – 7 per cent
  • 1 in 20 – 14 per cent
  • 1 in 10 – 18 per cent
  • 1 in five – 26 per cent
  • 1 in two – 22 per cent
  • All – 3 per cent

The Marie Keating Foundation was set up in Ireland by Ronan Keating and his family, following the untimely death of their mother from cancer in February 1998.

The Keating Family realised the need for knowledge and awareness of cancer, particularly early detection signs and maintaining a healthy life.

Through three mobile information units the Foundation’s dedicated nurses have enlightened over 60,000 people of the causes and risk factors of breast and other cancers. To date we have visited over 2,275 towns, villages and corporate sites in Ireland and a staggering 3,412 people have been referred to their GP for further evaluation.

The information units ensure that the Irish public are aware of cancer and of the changes they can make to their lifestyle to help them reduce their risk.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.


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