(HealthDay News) — Many people ignore potential warning signs of cancer, according to the results of a British survey published online December 2 in PLOS ONE.

The study involved 1,724 people aged ≥50 in the United Kingdom who completed a health questionnaire listing 17 symptoms, including 10 widely publicized possible cancer symptoms. The symptoms included unexplained cough, bleeding, or significant changes in bowel or bladder activity.

While 53% of the participants said they had experienced at least one of the potential cancer symptoms in the previous three months, only 2% thought cancer was a possible cause of those symptoms. In many cases, people attributed potential signs of cancer to reasons such as age, infection, arthritis, cysts, and hemorrhoids, according to the Cancer Research U.K.-funded survey.

“Most people with potential warning symptoms don’t have cancer, but some will and others may have other diseases that would benefit from early attention,” lead author Katriina Whitaker, PhD, senior research fellow at University College London, said in a Cancer Research U.K. news release. “It’s worrying that even the more obvious warning symptoms, such as unexplained lumps or changes to the appearance of a mole, were rarely attributed to cancer, although they are often well-recognized in surveys that assess the public’s knowledge of the disease.”

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