Researchers have discovered that most people are not aware of the symptoms of cancer. Researchers from Cancer Research UK conducted a small study on 1,500 people and found that only five per cent knew the symptoms of cancer.

The researchers had asked the people to list possible warning signs of the disease; only 77 people mentioned a cough that does not go away. Just two people mentioned a painful cough and only three listed a change in an existing cough as a possible symptom of lung cancer.

Less than 10 per cent mentioned a continuous chest infection, tiredness or unexplained weight loss; and less than 15 per cent mentioned persistent chest pain.

Almost 80 per cent failed to mention coughing up blood and 63 per cent did not list shortness of breath.

"It's very worrying to see from our survey results that when asked to think of lung cancer symptoms many common ones simply don't come to mind for most people. A diagnosis of lung cancer is devastating, but if the disease is caught in its earliest stages treatment can improve survival," said Sara Hiom, Director of Information, at Cancer Research UK.

"We can help improve diagnosis by raising awareness of the signs people should look out for and when to get them checked by a doctor," he said.

The study also found that 15 per cent of the British population don't link smoking with lung cancer. They found that 85 per cent had mentioned exposure to cigarette smoke as a risk factor, whereas the remaining 15 per cent were unaware of that.

"Given the shockingly low levels of awareness among smokers and non-smokers alike it is even more vital that we do all we can to stop a new generation growing up addicted to tobacco," said Jean King, Director of Tobacco Control at Cancer Research UK.

Researchers claim that eight out of ten 10 smokers start smoking at the age of 19 in Britain and more than half of the people who continue to smoke long-term die of cancer.

In 2010 tobacco caused 86 per cent of lung cancer cases. Smoking causes nearly a fifth of all cancer cases in the UK and more than a quarter of all cancer deaths.

Tobacco has killed an estimated 6.5 million Britons over the last 50 years but today one in five British adults still smokes.

According to the researchers, people from poorer backgrounds had lower levels of symptom and risk factor awareness. Smokers who are most at risk of lung cancer showed no greater awareness of symptoms than non-smokers.

"That is why we are urging the government to put tobacco in plain packaging to stop the glossy lure of cigarette packets from seducing youngsters into smoking. Research shows how the tobacco industry relies on the power of the pack to attract brand conscious teenagers to buy their product. It's their only legal form of marketing, and removing this silent salesman will give millions of children one less reason to start smoking," she said.