Background: Studies have shown limited awareness about cancer risk factors among hospital-based staff. Less is known about general cancer awareness among community frontline National Health Service and social care staff.
Methods: A cross-sectional computer-assisted telephone survey of 4664 frontline community-based health and social care staff in North West England.
Results: A total of 671 out of 4664 (14.4%) potentially eligible subjects agreed to take part. Over 92% of staff recognised most warning signs, except an unexplained pain (88.8%, n=596), cough or hoarseness (86.9%, n=583) and a sore that does not heal (77.3%, n=519). The bowel cancer-screening programme was recognised by 61.8% (n=415) of staff. Most staff agreed that smoking and passive smoking 'increased the chance of getting cancer.' Fewer agreed about getting sunburnt more than once as a child (78.0%, n=523), being overweight (73.5%, n=493), drinking more than one unit of alcohol per day (50.2%, n=337) or doing less than 30 min of moderate physical exercise five times a week (41.1%, n=276).
Conclusion: Cancer awareness is generally good among frontline staff, but important gaps exist, which might be improved by targeted education and training and through developing clearer messages about cancer risk factors.