• By Jim McVeigh

Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup: Southwest residents less concerned about developing cancer

September 12, 2017

Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup shows almost all Americans take at least one preventive measure to avoid cancer

Southwest residents less concerned about developing cancer

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Cancer is a real concern for many Americans, as the fourth edition of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup released today shows. Ninety-five percent of respondents take at least one preventive measure to avoid cancer. Three-fourths of survey respondents avoid smoking (75 percent), limit alcohol consumption (74 percent) and maintain a healthy diet (72 percent). And women are significantly more likely than men to do all three.

The Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup, first launched in January 2016, provides a quick pulse on consumer health opinions and behaviors at multiple times throughout the year.

“Cancer affects millions of Americans each year, including people in treatment or supporting their loved ones. It’s not easy to talk about cancer, but this edition of the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup opens a door for dialogue,” says Aleksandar Sekulic, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director for the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and dermatologist at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. “The better we understand national attitudes and actions toward health, the better equipped we’ll be to educate and empower healthy decisions.”

In Southwest, less concern for cancer means less screenings

When it comes to developing cancer, residents from the Southwest (54 percent), which includes ─ Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah, are less inclined to be concerned, compared to people in the Northeast (66 percent) and Midwest (65 percent). This might be because Southwest residents (53 percent) are the least likely to have experienced a cancer diagnosis personally and/or through a loved one, compared to the national response (66 percent).

However, this fearless attitude and unacquaintance leads Southwest residents to be the least likely to be screened for skin cancer annually (13 percent) and say they receive recommended routine cancer screenings (46 percent); whereas, Northeast residents are the most likely (61 percent).

Still, Americans are taking the time to educate themselves and make healthy lifestyle choices that may help them avoid cancer:

  • Nine in 10 Americans are aware of their family’s medical history when it comes to cancer.
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to take preventive measures, including discussing risk and prevention with their health care provider, sleeping the recommended number of hours and receiving recommended routine cancer screenings.

“The good news is that many positive lifestyle choices that promote overall health and wellness also can play a role in avoiding cancer,” says Dr. Sekulic. “Genetics is a factor in some cancers, but environmental and lifestyle factors play a critical role in many cancers. It’s always a good idea to maintain a healthy diet, engage in physical activity and stay away from smoking.”

Costs and time top barriers to diagnosis and treatment

Survey respondents considered hypothetical situations involving cancer and their actual experiences. If they noticed a possible cancer symptom, respondents listed two primary factors that would affect going to see a health care provider. Financial concerns or insurance coverage were cited most frequently (46 percent); time available to schedule and attend appointments (41 percent) came in second. Citing the financial and insurance concerns more frequently were Hispanics (64 percent), millennials (59 percent) and African-Americans (57 percent).

People living in the Southwest (44 percent) are more inclined to say they or a loved one did not face any barriers to obtaining care for cancer, compared to residents in the Northeast (28 percent) and Midwest (31 percent).

Preventive gaps exist: HPV vaccine, colorectal screenings

While two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) associate at least one type of cancer with HPV, less than one-third (30 percent) say that they, their children or their spouse have received the HPV vaccine or plan to receive it. Survey participants who say they have not received the vaccine or do not plan to receive it cite questions about the safety and/or effectiveness of the vaccine (54 percent) or simply don’t know what it is or details about it (48 percent). This is concerning, as many different types of cancer are linked to HPV, including virtually all cases of cervical cancer.

An early diagnosis for colorectal cancer is best for successful treatment; yet, less than half of patients are diagnosed at an early stage, according to the American Cancer Society. Noninvasive colon cancer screenings offer a promising option, and 85 percent of Americans say they would use a noninvasive screening, if available. However, more than half of Americans (59 percent) are not aware of the Cologuard test for colon cancer, which was developed in partnership with Mayo Clinic and can be conducted from home. This test detects early-stage colon cancer 94 percent of the time.

“Cancer is formidable, but it’s encouraging to see survival rates increasing for many types of cancer. This change is fueled by improvements in cancer screening and treatment, like the HPV vaccine and colon cancer tests,” says Dr. Sekulic. “At Mayo Clinic, we provide the most comprehensive cancer care available today, but we’re also researching and developing new methods of prevention to benefit all Americans in the future.”

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About the Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup
The Mayo Clinic National Health Checkup® was conducted in July 2017 through an ORC International Telephone CARAVAN® Omnibus Survey of 1,124 adults (18 years and older) living in the continental U.S. Learn more at healthcheckup.mayoclinic.org.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.

MEDIA CONTACT
Jim McVeigh, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 480-301-4222, mcveigh.jim@mayo.edu

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