The chief of Macmillan Cancer Support says many children remain worryingly unaware of cancer causes with a survey showing 97 per cent of nine to 16-year-olds don't know sunburn can give you the disease.

Macmillan surveyed 500 school children about their knowledge of cancer and their feelings towards it, with half of those asked saying they do not even know what cancer actually was.

Though 91 per cent do know that smoking is a cause, there is clearly a gap in knowledge as a small number believe they can get it from behaving badly, one in five think it is always fatal and more than half say the word 'cancer' makes them feel frightened.

Katherine Donnelly from Macmillan Cancer Support said many people, including teachers, think that young children should be protected from talking about cancer.

"Not all teachers feel confident about talking about it or know where to get the facts from and for many it remains a taboo subject," she said.

"As cancer affects more and more people, the chances of children knowing someone with the condition grows - be that their grandparent, parent or friend. This can be really distressing and they may feel too worried to ask questions.

"Just over a quarter of children have been taught about cancer at school and this needs to improve."

The charity has produced an information pack called Talking About Cancer to allow teachers to plan lessons around the subject which you can request for free at

Posted 09/09/12 by