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Cancer awareness and socio-economic position: results from a population-based study in Denmark

Line Hvidberg12*, Anette Fischer Pedersen1, Christian Nielsen Wulff3 and Peter Vedsted1

Author Affiliations

1 Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care (CaP), Research Unit for General Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

2 Section for General Medical Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 2, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

3 Department of Oncology, Aarhus University Hospital, Noerrebrogade 44, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark

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BMC Cancer 2014, 14:581  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-581

Published: 9 August 2014



Differences in cancer awareness between individuals may explain variations in healthcare seeking behaviour and ultimately also variations in cancer survival. It is therefore important to examine cancer awareness and to investigate possible differences in cancer awareness among specific population subgroups. The aim of this study is to assess awareness of cancer symptoms, risk factors and perceived 5-year survival from bowel, breast, ovarian, and lung cancer in a Danish population sample and to analyse the association between these factors and socio-economic position indicators.


A population-based telephone survey was carried out among 1,000 respondents aged 30–49 years and 2,000 respondents aged 50 years and older using the Awareness and Beliefs about Cancer measure. Information on socio-economic position was obtained by data linkage through Statistics Denmark. Prevalence ratios were used to determine the association between socio-economic position and cancer awareness.


A strong socio-economic gradient in cancer awareness was found. People with a low educational level and a low household income were more likely to have a lower awareness of cancer symptoms, cancer risk factors and the growing risk of cancer with age. Furthermore, men and people outside the labour force tended to be less aware of these factors than women and people within the labour force. However, women were more likely than men to lack awareness of the relationship between age and cancer risk. No clear associations were found between socio-economic position and lack of awareness of 5-year survival from bowel, breast, ovarian, and lung cancers.


As cancer awareness has shown to be positively associated with cancer-related behaviour, e.g. healthcare seeking, consideration must be given to tackle inequalities in cancer awareness and to address this issue in future public health strategies, which should be targeted at and tailored to the intended recipient groups.

Denmark; Cancer; Awareness; Socio-economic position; Inequality