Cancer awareness data now available

Article dated: 24 November 2010

The most comprehensive source of information about awareness of cancer signs, symptoms and risk factors in the UK is now available from the UK Data Archive.

Data from the Cancer Awareness Measures (CAMs) make it possible to track levels of awareness over time, compare awareness within regions of the UK or between countries, and to evaluate the impact of awareness-raising initiatives.

cancer awareness WHAT IS THE CAM?

The generic Cancer Awareness Measure (CAM) is a validated set of questions designed to assess awareness of cancer signs and symptoms and risk factors. It was developed by Cancer Research UK, University College London, King’s College London and University of Oxford in 2007-2008.

The CAM includes questions about:

  • awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer
  • anticipated time to seek medical help from a doctor
  • barriers to seeking medical help
  • awareness of risk factors for cancer
  • awareness of the National Health Service (NHS) national cancer screening programmes

Site-specific CAMs for Breast, Bowel/Colorectal, Cervical, Lung and Ovarian Cancer have also been developed which follow a similar format to the generic CAM and make it possible to establish current levels of awareness for particular types of cancer.


In 2007, the NHS Cancer Reform Strategy (CRS) emphasised the importance of raising awareness of early cancer warning signs and risk factors in the general population. The National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) was set up to support and co-ordinate activities that promote earlier diagnosis of cancer. The CAM development and the first national survey were early outputs of NAEDI.


There are benefits of using a CAM:

  • provide a validated set of questions on cancer awareness
  • can be used internationally, nationally and regionally
  • can be used to monitor or track how awareness changes over time
  • allow comparisons between different groups of the population
  • identify information needs
  • help monitor the impact of awareness-raising activities

In the UK, the CAM is being used nationally and locally to benchmark and track awareness over time, as well as to monitor the impact of initiatives intended to improve awareness of cancer.

The CAM was first used in late 2008 in a population-based survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics (n=2216) and in an ethnic minority sample completed by Ethnibus (n=1500). Awareness of most cancer signs and symptoms (other than a 'lump or swelling') was low and there were significant differences by gender, age, social economic group and ethnicity, with lower awareness in men, younger adults, more deprived groups and ethnic minority groups.


The data captured from CAM surveys are being made available at the UK Data Archive in what will form the most comprehensive source of information about cancer awareness.

All CAM users are encouraged and supported to make their data available at the Archive. Building the evidence base on awareness of cancer will enable monitoring of trends in awareness and assess the impact of national and local activities designed to improve knowledge. Most importantly it should help identify ways to improve services and outcomes for patients and members of the public.


The Department of Health International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) is carrying out a comparison of cancer services and outcomes internationally, with the aim of identifying actions to improve cancer survival rates. One aspect of this programme will explore differences in population awareness and beliefs relating to cancer using a newly developed version of the CAM with a shorter format and inclusion of measures of attitudes - the 'ABC'. Following validation early next year (2011), this survey will be carried out in each of the 12 partner jurisdictions and should help to increase our understanding of the motivators of early presentation.