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Psychooncology. 2013 Mar;22(3):605-13. doi: 10.1002/pon.3041. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

Public attitudes toward cancer and cancer patients: a national survey in Korea.

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Cancer Education Center, Samsung Comprehensive Cancer Center, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



Regardless of improved survival rate, negative images and myths about cancer still abound. Cancer stigma may reduce patients' life opportunities resulting in social isolation, decreased level of emotional well-being, and poor health outcomes. This study was aimed to evaluate public attitudes toward cancer and cancer patients and people's willingness to disclose cancer diagnosis in South Korea.


A cross-sectional survey was conducted in August and September 2009. A nationally representative sample of 1011 men and women with no history of cancer was recruited. A set of 12 questions grouped into three domains (impossibility of recovery, cancer stereotypes, and discrimination) was used to assess public attitudes toward cancer.


It was found 58.5% of study participants agreed that it is impossible to treat cancer regardless of highly developed medical science, 71.8% agreed that cancer patients would not be able to make contributions to society, and 23.5% agreed that they would avoid working with persons who have cancer. The proportions of people who said that that they would not disclose a cancer diagnosis to family, friends or neighbors, or coworkers were 30.2%, 47.0%, and 50.7%, respectively. Negative attitudes toward cancer were strongly associated with lower willingness to disclose a cancer diagnosis.


Negative attitudes, stereotypes, and discriminating attitudes toward cancer and people affected by the disease were very common in spite of clinical progress and improved survivorship.


Our findings emphasize the need for health policy and social changes to provide a more supportive environment for cancer survivors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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