Tobacco use, alcohol consumption and sun exposure are all known risk factors for cancer. But many people also believe in cancer causes with little to no evidence, according to new findings from the European Journal of Cancer, reports Cancer Research UK.

Researchers stumbled upon a widespread belief in unproven causes of cancer among a group of 1,330 English citizens. Their findings:

  • More than 40 percent of people believed that stress and food additives caused cancer;
  • A third thought that electromagnetic frequencies and eating genetically modified food were risk factors;
  • 19 percent considered microwave ovens a possible cause of cancer.

However, a greater percentage of participants correctly cited smoking (88 percent), passive smoking (80 percent) and sunburn (60 percent) as proven causes of cancer.

The study also showed that believing in speculative cancer causes did not correspond with risky lifestyle habits and that knowledge of established risk factors was associated with nonsmoking and healthier eating.

“It’s worrying to see that so many people endorse risk factors for which there is no convincing evidence,” said lead study author Samuel Smith, PhD, of the University of Leeds. He suggests that the increase in the number of people who believe in unproven cancer causes may be attributed to how news and information is accessed via the internet and social media.

As a result of these findings, experts are calling for improvements in public education and awareness regarding real versus questionable causes of cancer. Such changes could help bring about better lifestyle choices.

Click here to learn about five things that cause cancer and five things that probably don’t.