COUNTYWIDE : Cancer Fears Spark Defensive Measures

County residents call cancer their greatest health threat, but AIDS runs a close second, according to a Gallup Poll released this week.

But worried as they are about cancer, residents are also working hard to prevent the deadly disease, the survey showed.

Of 200 adults surveyed, 74% said they had stopped smoking, or were wearing sunscreen, or eating more fiber, or having regular medical checkups, or generally were trying to reduce their risk of cancer.

“The good news is that people in Orange County are more aware of cancer risks” than those nationally, said Dr. Robert O. Dillman, president of the American Cancer Society’s Orange County unit, which commissioned the local section of the poll.


Also, residents here were more optimistic that cancer could be cured, with 26% crediting advances in medical technology, compared to only 7% in California and 12% nationally holding such hope.

Dillman credited the difference to a strong medical technology industry in the county as well as the presence of three cancer centers--at UCI Medical Center, Hoag Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital.

Dillman also noted that the county’s projected death rate from cancer--4,000 deaths per year--was less than might be expected elsewhere. Applying national rates, 5,000 deaths would normally be expected, Dillman said. He credited early intervention and therapy with the lower death rate.

Also, Dillman said, better-educated, upper-income residents are treated earlier and live longer than their poorer, less-educated counterparts. “People should not be thinking this is a minority issue. It’s an educational and socioeconomic issue,” he said.