Paul Symonds of the University of Leicester and Leicester's Hospitals, and colleagues, said from September 2007 and January 2010, they questioned patients who were aware they had cancer.
The study, published in the journal Clinical Oncology, found there was widespread lack of awareness about the roles diet, obesity and lack of exercise play in the development of the disease.
The study found:
-- Many patients emphasized pollution, stress and injury as causes of cancer.
-- Almost one-quarter of the group believed cancer was caused by injury, reflecting research more than half a century ago.
-- 20 percent said surgery could cause cancer to spread.
-- Many said religion/fate played a part in cancer.
-- 30 percent gave credence to alternative medicine being as effective as current clinical procedures.
-- 84 percent said smoking could cause cancer.
The vast majority said cancer is curable and 93 percent knew the advantages of early screening, the researchers said.