Change in children's perception of cancer in the last 10 years in Japan

Pediatr Int. 2021 Jun 22. doi: 10.1111/ped.14895. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Background: Social awareness on cancer can be changed with cancer education and proper distribution of cancer information. This study addressed the current situation and historical change of children's perception of cancer.

Methods: Questionnaire surveys were conducted among healthy school children aged 10 to 15 years in 2008 and 2018. Knowledge of cancer was questioned and compared with that of asthma, tuberculosis or measles. Furthermore, the children were asked their resources of health information.

Results: The numbers of participants and collection rates were 438 and 63.9% in 2008, and 320 and 44.7% in 2018. Children's perception of cancer was significantly changed in the last decade. The proportion of respondents answering "cancer affects children" was changed from 78.3 to 89.5% (P=0.0001), "cancer is preventable", from 42.0 to 49.7% (P=0.0425) and "cancer is curable", from 52.4 to 66.0% (P=0.0003). Significantly more junior high school students answered that cancer is preventable than elementary school children in 2018 (55.9 vs. 42.7%, P=0.0028). The major resources of information on health were television, parents and books. The proportion of children choosing the Internet significantly increased from 15.3 to 47.8% (P<0.0001). Significantly more junior high school students selected television and the Internet than elementary school children (94.5 vs. 86.9%, P=0.0202 for television; 57.1 vs. 37.9%, P=0.0007 for the Internet).

Conclusion: The proportion of children correctly perceiving cancer information had increased in the last decade. Junior high school students better understood the information. The Internet is of increasing importance as an information resource for school children.

Keywords: Cancer perception; Children; Health literacy; Historical change; School health.