Cancer-related beliefs and behaviours in Australia

Aust J Public Health. 1991 Mar;15(1):14-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.1991.tb00005.x.


A sample of 3527 adults aged 16 years and over was interviewed in their homes to obtain Australian data on selected behavioural risk factors for cancer. Four fifths of those interviewed nominated at least one step that individuals may take to reduce their risk of cancer, while 14 per cent believed there were no preventive measures available. Most salient among the preventive steps mentioned were 'not smoking' (58 per cent), dietary measures (30 per cent) and protection of the skin against the sun (13 per cent). Various psychological factors were mentioned by 7 per cent. Beliefs about dietary factors associated with cancer and the direction of the relationship tended to be accurate but there appeared to be some confusion with heart disease dietary risk factors. One third of respondents had at some time noticed a skin sign they thought might be cancer, and this was related (as expected) to latitude of residence. Nearly half had at some time systematically checked their skin for lesions, and 13 per cent said they had done this at least six times in the preceding year. Overall, 78 per cent of women respondents said they had been screened for cervical cancer, and 51 per cent said this had taken place in the past two years. Twelve per cent reported having had a mammogram, 7 per cent that were apparently diagnostic and 5 per cent that were reported to be routine screening mammograms. Overall, 78 per cent said they had done systematic breast self-examination at least once, including 41 per cent who said they had done breast self-examination in the past month and 23 per cent who reported having done it monthly over the previous year.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Australia
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Public Opinion
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Examination
  • Surveys and Questionnaires