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MUN researchers want to know how much Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know about cancer

Finding ways to prevent cancer is the key goal of an online survey underway by Memorial University’s faculty of medicine.
Finding ways to prevent cancer is the key goal of an online survey underway by Memorial University’s faculty of medicine. - Submitted

Developing a better understanding of awareness and knowledge surrounding cancer — including risk factors, screening and prevention — has led to an online survey for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Researchers at Memorial University are asking residents of this province to participate in an online survey dealing with cancer awareness and prevention.

The study, which will collect data until the end of May, could determine whether cancer awareness and associated health practices are related to whether a person’s family or friends have been diagnosed with cancer.

“The results from this study will provide very important information for evidence-based chronic disease prevention,” said Dr. Peter Wang, the principal investigator and professor in Memorial University’s faculty of medicine.

Wang
Wang

“For example, the results from this study will answer several important questions related to the Newfoundland and Labrador public.”

Those questions could expand knowledge in the following areas:

•  How well is the Newfoundland and Labrador public informed about chronic disease prevention, especially for cancer?

•  How do people’s health knowledge and attitudes affect their diet and lifestyles?

•  Are people with high risks of certain chronic health conditions more likely to engage in healthy lifestyles?

The primary focus of the study is on cancer prevention, but it will look at factors that will help inform other chronic disease prevention efforts in this province and lend to a comparison of study results with other populations in Canada.

Healthy diet and lifestyles play an essential role in preventing many chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and many types of cancer.
In order to effectively prevent disease, more than just knowledge of its biology and risk factors are required to put that knowledge into practice.
The study was launched to assess health knowledge and lifestyles among older adults in Newfoundland and Labrador. All N.L. residents — ages 35 to 74 — are eligible for the study.

Participants should expect the survey to take approximately 20 minutes to complete online, and they are asked to answer all of the questions to the best of their ability. The survey will also ask basic questions on demographics, health, social support and health-related behaviours such as diet, physical activity and the use of health care services.

These answers will help shape the future of cancer prevention strategies by addressing the unique needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans.

This study is supported by a grant from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Healthy Aging Research Program (NL-HARP). Other co-investigators are doctors Aubrey, Etchegary, Roebothan, Asghari and Yi.

Participation in this study is anonymous and has been approved by the Health Research Ethics Authority (HREA) of Newfoundland and Labrador.

To complete the online survey anonymously, go online to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSccOvjrQY6MBTFNfz7Wwq0FJPuOhGdyv3UKkTPusX3Tzd3VWQ/viewform.

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com

Q&A

The Telegram
Lance Shaver, a graduate student at the faculty of medicine, is the research co-ordinator of this project.

The Telegram sent Shaver five questions earlier this week seeking more information about the survey and these are his responses:

Telegram: What prompted your group to formulate the survey?

Shaver:  Dr. Wang, the primary investigator of this study, and his team have done a lot of research over the last decade on the diet and lifestyle factors of Newfoundlanders and how these are related to a person’s risk of cancer. We wanted to do this survey so we can hear from people across the province and see how aware people are of the knowledge this team’s research has uncovered. We also want to know factors associated with people engaging in different lifestyles, healthy or unhealthy, to help us uncover why we are seeing such high rates of cancer and chronic illness in our province.

Telegram: From what I am reading in the survey, lifestyle, stress and diet are key areas in your study. How do these affect cancer and how can the information you gather in the survey go to helping people navigate their lives better to help prevent or at least find treatment and management of cancer issues?

Shaver: We know there are many risk factors for cancer and not all of them we can change, but lifestyle changes have been shown to be very effective in reducing a person’s risk of cancer. In order for people to effectively improve their health and reduce their cancer risk, people need the knowledge of how to improve their health, and they need to put that into practice. Through this survey, we hope to assess how aware Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are of the risk factors for cancer, and see if and how they are applying this knowledge in their life. This will help us identify knowledge gaps in the population which may assist us to design and conduct a larger population-based intervention study to see how we can improve people’s health. We’re also investigating how the social support people receive can influence these behaviours, such as exercise, healthy eating and undergoing regular cancer screening tests.

Telegram:  How many responses do you require to make the findings valid or give them the proper cross-section required to formulate your research?

Shaver: We have had a phenomenal response to our survey from Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans so far. The more responses we get, the better, as this will make our results more representative of the population and will greatly strengthen our findings.

Telegram: What kind of time frame do you have for responses?

Shaver: We will be collecting responses until the end of May 2018.

Telegram: A lot has been said about lifestyle choices in recent articles about Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. How will this survey help to develop outcomes to what has been deemed lifestyle issues and how will it help with its mandate of preventing cancer in the future?

Shaver: The results from this study will bring awareness to researchers and policymakers of where future health promotion interventions can be directed to improve the health and well-being of our population. This survey will help us uncover whether the health knowledge we have previously published has actually made its way to the people of this province. We also want to know what personal factors are associated with having a healthy lifestyle and actively participating in the province’s cancer screening programs. We can use this knowledge to identify who would benefit from future public health campaigns, and what kind of campaigns would work best to improve the health of our population.

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