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Cancer Disease Poll: 6 in 10 Nigerians do not know causes of Cancer

Infographic showing the prevalence of cancer, incidence of cancer, causes, symptoms and how government can assist cancer patients.
Infographics on Cancer Disease

Abuja, Nigeria. June 20, 2023 – A new public opinion poll conducted by NOIPolls has revealed that 62 percent of adult Nigerians nationwide disclosed that they do not know the causes of cancer disease. However, 14 percent attributed the cause to eating of canned food, while 7 percent said it is caused by poor hygiene among other causes mentioned.

More findings revealed that most adult Nigerians (77 percent) believe that cancer disease is prevalent in the country and 28 percent disclosed that they or a family member have suffered from the ailment. For instance, on July 11, 2021, Nigeria’s rapper-songwriter Olanrewaju Fasasi, popularly known as Sound Sultan, lost his long-fought battle with throat cancer at the age of 44[1]. According to the National Cancer Control Plan (2018–2022), cancer is responsible for 72,000 deaths in Nigeria every year, with an estimated 102,000 new cases of cancer annually[2].

With regards to recommendations on how the Federal Government can assist those suffering from cancer ailment, 47 percent advised that the Federal Government should provide centres for free cancer screening. Other suggestions include making cancer drugs cheaper for patients (27 percent), creation of awareness for cancer disease (17 percent), making the equipment for cancer treatment readily available (16 percent) and subsidizing treatment of cancer (12 percent). These are some of the key findings from the Cancer Poll conducted in the week commencing May 8th, 2023.


Cancer is a general term for a large cluster of ailments that can affect any part of the human body. Other similar terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms[3]. One major feature of cancer is the speedy creation of abnormal cells that grow beyond their usual boundaries, and which can then invade contiguous parts of the body and spread to other organs; the latter process is referred to as metastasis. Widespread metastasis is the primary cause of death from cancer[4].

Cancer is caused by alteration of normal cells into tumour cells in a multi-stage process that generally progresses from a pre-cancerous lesion to a malignant tumour[5]. These changes are the result of the interaction between a person's genetic factors and three categories of external agents which include physical, chemical, and biological carcinogens[6]. More so, some cancers are caused by infections which include human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis which are responsible for roughly around 30 percent of cancer cases in low-and middle -income countries[7].

According to WHO statistics, cancer is the leading cause of death all over the world resulting in nearly 10 million deaths in 2020 or nearly one in six deaths[8]. The most common cancers that occur in human include breast, lungs, colon, rectum, and prostate cancers. Additionally, one-third of deaths caused by cancer are due to tobacco use, high body mass index, alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable intake and lack of physical activities[9]. In Nigeria, an estimated 72,000 cancer deaths occur annually, and 102,000 new cases are diagnosed from its population of 200 million people[10]. Against this background, NOIPolls conducted a survey to gauge the perception of Nigerians regarding cancer disease and hereby presents its findings.

Survey Findings

The first question sought to gauge citizen’s perception on the prevalence of cancer disease in the country. The survey result revealed that most adult Nigerians nationwide believe that cancer disease is prevalent in the country as disclosed by 77 percent of the proportion polled. On the other hand, 18 percent of the respondents stated otherwise.

Chart showing the prevalence of Cancer Disease in Nigeria
Prevalence of Cancer Disease in Nigeria

Furthermore, respondents were asked if they or any member of their family has suffered from cancer ailment, and findings showed that 28 percent of the respondents acknowledged they or a family member had suffered from the ailment. The South-East zone (40 percent) accounted for the highest number of respondents who made this assertion. On the contrary, 72 percent of the respondents reported that they or members of their family have not suffered from cancer ailment in the past.

Chart showing the incidence of Cancer Disease
Incidence of Cancer Disease

Interestingly, the survey revealed most adult Nigerians nationwide do not know the causes of cancer aliment as asserted by 62 percent of those interviewed. Similarly, 14 percent of the respondents attributed the cause of cancer to eating canned food, 7 percent mentioned poor hygiene. Other causes cited include unhealthy food/bad diet (6 percent), hereditary (6 percent), smoking (3 percent), using of bleaching cream as well as keeping money inside the brassiere (1 percent).

Chart showing perceived causes of Cancer Disease in Nigeria
Perceived causes of Cancer Disease

Subsequently, when asked about the symptoms of cancer aliment, 27 percent stated lump growths, while those who mentioned tommy/back pain and unexplainable weight loss had 8 percent apiece. Other symptoms cited include swelling of affected area, feeling tired and unwell (7 percent each), itchy/yellow skin (5 percent), and nose bleeding amongst others.

Charts showing symptoms of Cancer Disease in Nigeria
Known symptoms of Cancer Disease

The survey further revealed that a larger proportion (61 percent) of adult Nigerians believe that cancer aliment is curable. Analysis by gender shows more male respondents (66 percent) than female respondents (57 percent) believe that cancer ailment can be cured. A closer look at the disaggregation by age-group reveals more respondents between the ages of 36 – 60 years accounted for those who believe that cancer ailment can be cured.

On the contrary, while 24 percent of the respondents disclosed that cancer cannot be cured, while 15 percent of the respondent do not know if the ailment can be cured or not.

Chart showing the perceived Cancer Disease cure
Perceived Cancer Disease Cure

On recommendations how the Federal Government can assist those suffering from cancer ailment, findings revealed that 47 percent suggested that the government should provide centers for free cancer screening, 27 percent advised government should make the drugs cheaper for patients, 17 percent proposed the creation of awareness of cancer disease. Additionally, 16 percent want the government to make the equipment for cancer treatment readily available while 12 percent recommended the treatment of cancer should be subsidized.

Chart showing how Nigerian Government can assist Cancer Disease patients in Nigeria
How Government can assist Cancer Disease Patients


In conclusion, findings have shown that 77 percent of Nigerians believe that cancer disease is prevalent in the country with 28 percent further disclosing they or a family member has suffered from the ailment. It is also worthy to note that 62 percent of Nigerians reported that they do not know the causes of cancer disease. Though, 14 percent attributed the cause to eating of canned food, 7 percent stated it is caused by poor hygiene.

Although 61 percent of Nigerians believe that cancer can be cured, 47 percent recommended the federal government should provide centres for free cancer screening as well as making cancer drugs cheaper for patients indicated by 27 percent of those interviewed. Finally, the Ministry of Health and stakeholders in the health sector should synergize and establish a national cancer screening program that can mandate the populace to cancer screening whenever they visit any public health facility.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week commencing May 8th, 2023. It involved telephone interviews of a proportionate nationwide sample of 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geo-political regions and 36 states and the FCT of the country. Interviews were conducted in 5 languages – Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba, Pidgin English, and English. Although we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained were statistically precise – within a margin of error of plus or minus 4.65%; we recognize that the exclusive use of telephone polling has its limitation of excluding non-phone-owning Nigerians. Nonetheless, with the country’s tele density put over 100 per cent by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), we consider our telephone polling approach appropriate. Also, given the rigorous scientific process of randomization and stratification applied, we can confidently stand by the validity of our methodology and approach. NOIPolls Limited, No. 1 for country-specific polling services in West Africa. We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as authors whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited, or published. NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect the views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or facts, or any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken because of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions, or views herein constitute a judgment as of the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls' current findings and/or thinking.

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[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]


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