University College London researchers who probed a sample group of 2,000 British adults found that the low paid and unemployed did not go to their GP because they were sceptical about treatment.
Dr Rebecca Beeken, author of the Cancer Research survey, said: "This study shows that people with lower socio-economic status may think it is less worthwhile to detect cancer early because they are more fatalistic about the outcome."
She gave the grim warning that: "These differences in the way people perceive cancer could lead to inequalities in cancer survival."
Fourteen per cent of people in lower skilled jobs told researchers they might be too frightened to see their doctor if they thought they had a cancer symptom. The figure for people with higher skilled jobs was under half that at just six per cent.
Statistics show that half of people diagnosed with cancer survive for at least five years - a figure most people they say they believe. But people with a lower socio-economic status took the more pessimistic view that only 26 per cent of cancer sufferers lived for more than five years.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "UK cancer survival has doubled over the last 40 years. But we know that the most deprived patients are less likely to survive their cancer than the most affluent patients, which is a huge cause for concern."
She said: "Addressing attitudes towards cancer in some of the poorest parts of the society will play an important role in ensuring the UK is comparable with the best survival rates in the world."