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Nurses "unsure about cancer causes"

Health professionals are less clued up on certain medical issues than the public, with over a third believing that coffee can cause cancer, a survey has found.

Despite there being no link between coffee and the disease, around 36% of health workers believed that coffee could cause cancer, in comparison to 12% of the general population.

A total of 143 workers, 41% of whom were nurses, 22% health visitors and 8% GPs, were questioned for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) survey.

However, health professionals did score highly on knowing that poor diet increases risk of cancer (81%), compared with 63% of the general public.

Overall, 79% of workers were aware that being overweight increases the risk of cancer, compared with 60% of the public, and 78% knew of the link with alcohol, compared with 51% of the public.

But the percentage who were aware that not exercising increases the risk of cancer dropped to 64% among NHS workers and 47% of the public.

Silvia Pastorino, health professionals publications manager for the WCRF, said the survey was small but revealed some health workers are still not aware what lifestyle factors increase the risk.

She said: "There is no strong evidence that coffee increases the risk of cancer.

"In fact, we often suggest drinking unsweetened tea or coffee as an alternative to sugary drinks.

"While I am not surprised that many of the general public are not aware of this, it is worrying to think this may also be the case for some health professionals."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

World Cancer Research Fund

We asked you to tell us what you think. Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"We can't know everything about everything. Otherwise how would we have 'expert nurses?' I am a practitioner with 25  years' experience of first contact and emergency care, and can spot red flags from 50 paces. But why should I know about epidemiology or have more that a passing interest in the causes and cures for cancer? (or kidney disease, Alzheimers, general surgery, or midwifery come to that?) I have never worked in that arena. Surveys are only as good as the people that compile them and on who their target samples are. So you worry away, Silvia Pastorino, and maybe give thanks to all the other nurses out there who are experts in their own fields, because if there weren't then there would be no specialist nurses in cancer care either. We cant all be 'jack of all trades' as some of us are expert in other arenas" - Name and address supplied