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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

Awareness of risk factors for cancer: a comparative study of Sweden and Denmark

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Magdalena Lagerlund, Line Hvidberg, Senada Hajdarevic, Anette Fischer Pedersen, Sara Runesdotter, Peter Vedsted, Carol Tishelman
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that there are no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

AFP, CT, LH, ML and PV conceived the study and contributed to its design and data collection. ML and SR performed the statistical analyses in consultation with the other authors. ML drafted the manuscript, and all authors contributed to critically revising the paper. Finally, all authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.



Sweden and Denmark are neighbouring countries with similarities in culture, healthcare, and economics, yet notable differences in cancer statistics. A crucial component of primary prevention is high awareness of risk factors in the general public. We aimed to determine and compare awareness of risk factors for cancer between a Danish and a Swedish population sample, and to examine whether there are differences in awareness across age groups.


Data derive from Module 2 of the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. Telephone interviews were conducted with 3000 adults in Denmark and 3070 in Sweden using the Awareness and Beliefs about Cancer measure. Data reported here relate to awareness of 13 prompted risk factors for cancer. Prevalence ratios with 95 % confidence intervals were calculated to examine associations between country, age, and awareness of risk factors.


Over 90 % of respondents in both countries recognized smoking, use of sunbeds and ionizing radiation as risk factors for cancer. Lowest awareness (<50 %) was found for HPV-infection, low fruit and vegetable intake and alcohol intake. Swedish respondents reported higher awareness than Danish respondents for ten of the 13 risk factors studied. Respondents from Denmark reported higher awareness only regarding low fruit and vegetable intake and use of sunbeds. Low physical activity was the only risk factor for which there was no difference in awareness between the countries. A decline in awareness was generally seen with increasing age in both countries, but deviating patterns were seen for alcohol intake, red/processed meat, obesity and age 70+.


This study supports findings from other European studies that generally demonstrate modest public awareness of many established cancer risk factors. Efforts should be made to improve awareness of the cancer risk factors HPV-infection, low fruit and vegetable intake and alcohol intake, which showed particularly low awareness in both countries. Previous studies indicate that repeated, broad campaigns are successful, and suggest that a multimedia approach is used.
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