Cancer fear `increased by celebrity campaigns'
Tuesday 21 September 1999
A survey of almost 1,000 women found that nearly half were unable to identify any of the correct risk factors. Age is the main risk but only one in 20 women knew that the disease increased with age and was commonest in those over 60.
Some specialists have argued that the proliferation of breast-cancer charities and the high public profile they have achieved in recent years has increased anxiety among women without increasing knowledge. The use of models and personalities, such as the former Spice girl Geri Halliwell, has also created the false impression that breast cancer is a disease of younger women.
The survey, published today by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), found that levels of anxiety were highest, and pessimism about the likelihood of surviving breast cancer greatest, among women whose knowledge of the disease was poorest.
The highest levels of anxiety were among the young who are at lowest risk. More than 80 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 said the thought of breast cancer scared them. Older women were less worried despite being at higher risk. The lifetime risk is quoted as one in eleven but this applies to women up to the age of 85. For the under-thirties the risk is one in 2,165.
Professor Jane Wardle, head of the ICRF's health behaviour unit, said: "It is definitely an issue we need to consider - whether the implicit messages coming with breast-cancer publicity are always accurate. The implicit message of using a Geri Halliwell front person is, `This is the sort of person at risk'." She added: "What became clear from the survey was that people had very poor awareness of the risk factors."
Even among the oldest women, breast cancer never causes more than one in five of all deaths. Six times more women die of heart disease (75,000 a year) than breast cancer (13,000 a year) but the former is feared less.
A spokeswoman for the ICRF said: "The women most at risk are those aged 50 and above and if we can increase awareness among them and get them to go to their GPs earlier it increases the chance that any treatment given will be successful."
About 30,000 women a year in Britain are diagnosed with breast cancer and one-third wait longer than three months for treatment, partly because they postpone going to a GP and partly because of the wait between referral and a hospital appointment. In a study published earlier this year in The Lancet, Professor Michael Richards, of St Thomas' Hospital in London, and colleagues concluded that if the total delay could be reduced to less than three months for all women, at least 500 lives could be saved.
n Age - commonest in older women
n Family history - if two or more close relatives affected, one before age 55.
n Early onset of periods
n Late menopause
n Late childbearing
n Alcohol consumption
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Terrorism explanation 'cannot be ruled out', says CIA
Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 1 Bad cattitude: Family call police after crazed and 'hostile cat with a history of violence' attacks baby before attempting to 'flee custody'
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: One of the largest mobile advert...
£20000 - £23000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: Our client specialises in creati...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...