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Fatalistic Beliefs About Cancer May Increase Cancer Risk

People who believe cancer risk is uncontrollable are less likely to engage in prevention behaviors

FRIDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Having fatalistic beliefs about cancer prevention may increase one's risk for cancer because those who feel this way are less likely to engage in cancer prevention behaviors, according to a report in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention.

Jeff Niederdeppe, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and a colleague used data from the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS 2003), a health-related phone interview survey that intentionally oversampled blacks and Hispanics to achieve larger minority representation.

Nearly 50 percent of respondents agreed that "it seems like almost everything causes cancer" and over one-quarter agreed that "there's not much people can do to lower their chances of getting cancer." In addition, 71.5 percent of the sample agreed that "there are so many recommendations about preventing cancer, it's hard to know which ones to follow." Respondents with fatalistic beliefs were less likely to exercise, refrain from smoking, or eat recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

The authors suggest that fatalism about cancer may result from the sheer volume of cancer coverage in the media or is "a deeply ingrained product of social and cultural experience that results in a broader life philosophy of nihilism, angst and helplessness." They add, "Future research should work to clarify sources of cancer fatalism and assess the impact of interventions to reduce cancer fatalism."

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