Cancer symptom and risk factor awareness in Malaysia: findings from a nation-wide cross-sectional study

Desiree Schliemann, Mohd Roshidi Ismail, Michael Donnelly, Christopher Cardwell, Tin Tin Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Cancer incidence in Malaysia is expected to double by 2040. Understanding cancer awareness is important in order to tailor preventative efforts and reduce the cancer burden. The objective of this research was to assess nationwide awareness about the signs and symptoms as well as risk factors for various cancers in Malaysia and identify socio-demographic factors associated with awareness. Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted from March–November 2014 in the form of a telephone survey. Participants aged 40 years and above were randomly selected across Malaysia and interviewed using the validated Awareness Beliefs about Cancer (ABC) measurement tool. Linear regression was conducted to test the association between symptom and risk factor recognition and socio-demographic variables. Results: A sample of 1895 participants completed the survey. On average, participants recognised 5.8 (SD 3.2) out of 11 symptoms and 7.5 (SD 2.7) out of 12 risk factors. The most commonly recognised symptom was ‘lump or swelling’ (74.5%) and the most commonly recognised risk factor was ‘smoking’ (88.7%). Factors associated with prompted awareness were age, ethnicity, education and smoking status. Conclusion: Recognition of symptom and risk factors for most cancers was relatively low across Malaysia compared to previous studies in high-income countries and to studies conducted in Malaysia. There is a need to conduct regular public health campaigns and interventions designed to improve cancer awareness and knowledge as a first step towards increasing the early detection of cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 06 Apr 2020


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