One in five people fears getting cancer more than losing their job, debt, Alzheimer's disease and having a heart attack, according to a poll.
More than one in three (34 per cent) believe cancer is down to fate and there is nothing they can do to reduce the risk in the survey for Cancer Research UK.
Asked to choose from a list of what they feared most – including Alzheimer's, debt, old age, being the victim of knife crime, cancer, a plane crash, motor neurone disease, a car accident, a heart attack or losing a job or home – more people (20 per cent) chose cancer over anything else.
Some 41 per cent of people aged 55 to 64 thought there was nothing they could do to cut the risk.
Cancer Research UK's director of health information, Sara Hiom, said: "The fear factor is a serious wake-up call for the British public. Cancer is no longer the death sentence that people still seem to dread."