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How bright are Swedish high school students? - Scores of Swedish high school student believe that cancer is contagious

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Well - its out there - nearly half of high school students in Västra Götaland and Skåne in Sweden,  believe that cancer is contagious. This is blow to Sweden which position itself as one f the leaders in developed world in providing basic knowledge especially in relation to healthy living and improved quality of life.

School and the politicians, which are now very embarrassed by such developments are taking responsibility to talk about the deadly disease and to create the right type of awareness, according to the Swedish Young Cancer Association.

The survey was conducted during the spring in collaboration with the Swedish Cancer Society. Nearly a thousand young people from western Sweden participated - and the numbers show a great lack of knowledge about cancer. Nearly half, 46 percent, thought for example that blood cancer can be transmitted to a healthy person through open wounds.

"You hear a lot about prevention but it is not done the right way. Young people do not read the news in the same way as adults. They need to be infirmed through means such as Facebook or blogs," says Julia Mjörnstedt, General Secretary of Young Cancer.

Only 18 percent of the young people surveyed say that they do not know anyone who has had cancer. Julia Mjörnstedt thinks that given that the disease is so prevalent, schools have a responsibility to talk about the subject.

"Cancer is such a scary disease that many people have bad experiences, so people do not talk happily about it. That's why we should look at this and think about how to get more knowledge of it in the curriculum."

The lack of knowledge may also lead to increased risk. Lifestyle habits are formed at a young age and with information that is properly packaged, Julia Mjörnstedt feels that it can get more young people to not start for example smoking.

Only 0.7 percent of respondents knew that alcohol increases the risk of cancer. 24 percent thought that the sun was only dangerous if one got burnt. Only 2.5 percent reported that exercise and diet can reduce the effects of cancer.

"The reactions we get when we are out and talk about this is that many young people think we should tell them what to do. But we simply want to help them to make their own smart decisions," says Julia Mjörnstedt.

The study was developed after a young girl who came back to school after fighting cancer and was welcomed by the entire school staying away from her. She found out that rumour was spreading on Facebook that people should not get closer to her for her cancer would infect others.

The political environment as well as the social structure in Sweden show that discussions about cancer and its effects are not something that is commonly had. There is the calls thus for more discussion and sensitisation to be had about the origins and the effects of caner and how one can get it.
By Team

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