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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

World Cancer Day – What Are Hopes and Expectations?


“Cancer” is a beast that kills 560,000 Americans per year, and millions more around the globe. “Cancer” akes many forms, most of which are awful and lethal, but with some less lethal if detected early. But progress is being made with immuno-therapy and precision drugs aimed at specific mutations in certain cancers.  And, some other therapies buy more time, perhaps enough time to find the next advance. Today, about 4% of Americans (over 14 million) are people who have survived cancer.

With today being World Cancer Day, it’s perhaps useful to look at public attitudes, which may over time translate to public demands on governments. A new Harris Poll indicates optimism, albeit perhaps also some misinformation as the number of diseases/conditions that are “cancer.”

“NEW YORK, Feb. 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Nearly six in 10 Americans (57%) and Canadians (59%) expect to see a cure for cancer in their lifetime. This optimism is especially strong among Millennials, with nearly three-fourths (73%) of U.S. Millennials and seven in 10 (69%) of their Canadian counterparts indicating the same.

What’s more, two-thirds of both Americans (68%) and Canadians (66%) don’t see a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. In a sharp contrast to their especially strong optimism in reference to expecting a cure within their lifetimes, it’s notable that American Millennials are in fact more likely to believe that a cancer diagnosis is a death sentence (39% 18-34 vs. 29% 35+). Americans whose lives have been touched by cancer (35%) are also more likely to see a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence, when compared to those whose lives have not been touched by cancer (29%).

“So many of us have had personal experiences with cancer or know someone who has,” says Harris Poll Vice President and Public Relations Consultant Deana Percassi. “In honor of World Cancer Day, we wanted to understand how Americans and Canadians feel about this disease.”

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,046 U.S. adults and 1,120 Canadian adults surveyed online between January 20 and 22, 2016. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Efforts and advances Majorities in both countries feel that efforts are being made – and that progress has been seen over the past 10 years – across multiple areas. But where are efforts and advances seen as most robust? Detection seems to be the watchword among both Americans and Canadians, while prevention efforts appear to be lagging by comparison. Reducing mortality rates and improving quality of life for patients living with cancer fall between these extremes.

Improving cancer detection: Nearly four in 10 Americans (38%) and a third of Canadians (34%) feel a great deal of effort is currently going toward improving cancer detection, with an overwhelming 87% of Americans and 85% of Canadians saying at least some effort is going toward this goal.

There’s a clear perception that these efforts are paying off, as 35% of Americans and three in 10 (30%) Canadians believe a lot of progress has been made toward improving cancer detection in the past 10 years; similarly robust majorities believe at least some progress has been realized (87% U.S., 83% Can).

Reducing the mortality rate of cancer: Over a third of Americans (35%) and nearly three in 10 Canadians (28%) feel there’s a great deal of effort going toward reducing cancer’s mortality rate, with a cumulative 84% and 82%, respectively, believing there’s at least some effort being put toward this.

Here again perceived efforts seem to be driving the perception of progress. 29% of Americans and 23% of Canadians feel a lot of progress has been made toward reducing mortality rates, with a cumulative eight in 10 (82% U.S., 79% Can) feeling there’s been at least some progress.

Improving the quality of life for those living with cancer: Results here are similar to those for reducing mortality rates, with roughly three in 10 Americans (31%) and just over a quarter of Canadians (27%) feeling there’s a great deal of effort going toward quality of life issues; a combined 82% in both countries believe there’s at least some effort being put toward the issue.

Similarly, just under three in 10 Americans (29%) and a quarter of Canadians (25%) feel there’s been a great deal of progress in quality of life concerns over the past 10 years, with eight in 10 (82% U.S., 79% Can) seeing signs of at least some progress.

Reducing the risk of cancer: Though majorities do feel attention is being paid to this area, it does lag somewhat behind detection, reduced mortality, and improved quality of life in both perceived efforts toward it and progress coming out of it. Over a quarter of both (28%) and Canadians (27%) perceive a great deal of effort going toward prevention, with over three-fourths (77% U.S., 78% Can) feeling at least some effort is going into for this.

There’s a bit of a disconnect on this issue. The perception that there’s been a lot of progress in this area in the past 10 years (20% U.S., 19% Can) is lower than in any other area, as well as being lower than the perceived efforts going into it. What’s more, though strong majorities do believe at least some progress is going into this area (74% U.S., 72% Can), this is the only area where the sentiment that there’s been little or no progress (26% U.S., 28% Can) outpaces the sense that there’s been a great deal.

It’s worth noting that in all four of these areas, perceived efforts and progress are especially strong among Americans who say their lives have been affected by cancer.

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Methodology This Harris Poll was conducted online between January 20 and 22, 2016 within the United States (in English) among 2,046 adults (aged 18 and over) and within Canada (in English and French) among 1,120 adults (also aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #10, February 3, 2016 By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll® Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. For more information, or to see other recent polls, please visit our new website,

Press Contact: Corporate Communications The Harris Poll 585-272-8400

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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