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Cancer awareness among adolescents in Britain: a cross-sectional study

Kyle, Richard G; Forbat, Liz; Hubbard, Gill


Richard G Kyle

Liz Forbat

Gill Hubbard


Background: Little is known about adolescents' cancer awareness and help-seeking behaviour in Britain. This study assessed adolescents': awareness of cancer symptoms, common cancers, and the relationship between cancer and age; anticipated delay and perceived barriers to seeking medical advice; and examined variation by age, gender, ethnicity and whether individuals knew someone with cancer. Methods: A survey was conducted using a modified paper version of the Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM). The sample included 478 adolescents (male: n = 250, 52.3%) aged 11-17 years old (mean = 13.8, SD = 1.24) recruited from four British schools between August and October 2011. Results: Adolescents' cancer awareness was low. Half of all adolescents did not know the most common childhood (51%) or teenage (49%) cancers and most (69%) believed cancer was unrelated to age. Awareness of cancer symptoms was significantly higher among older adolescents (aged 13-17 years) (p = 0.003) and those who knew someone with cancer (p less than 0.001). Three-quarters (74%) of adolescents indicated they would seek help for a symptom they thought might be cancer within 3 days, and half (48%) within 24 hours. The most endorsed barriers to help-seeking were 'worry about what the doctor might find' (72%), being 'too embarrassed' (56%), 'too scared' (54%) and 'not feeling confident to talk about symptoms' (53%). Endorsement of these emotional barriers was significantly higher among females (p ≤ 0.001). Conclusion: There are certain groups of adolescents with poor cancer awareness. Cancer messages need to be targeted and tailored to particular groups to prevent the emergence of health inequalities in adulthood. Interventions to raise adolescents' cancer awareness have the potential for a life-long impact on encouraging early diagnosis and survival.


Kyle, R. G., Forbat, L., & Hubbard, G. (2012). Cancer awareness among adolescents in Britain: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health, 12, 580.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2012
Deposit Date Jan 20, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jan 20, 2015
Electronic ISSN 1471-2458
Publisher BMC
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Pages 580
Keywords Cancer awareness; adolescents; health inequalities; cancer awareness strategy;
Public URL
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Cancer awareness among adolescents in Britain: a cross-sectional study (304 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2012 Kyle et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the CreativeCommons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.Kyleet al. BMC Public Health2012,12:580

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