Today, on World Cancer Day, organisations around the world are coming together to debunk the myths surrounding the disease. And the one dangerous myth that Breast Cancer Campaign wants to tackle is that your breast cancer risk reduces as you get older.
Why is Campaign choosing this one myth? Firstly, it’s an incredibly important myth to debunk – in fact breast cancer risk increases with age, so you’re never too old to be breast aware! With this in mind we’ve been working with Public Health England to support their Be Clear on Cancer campaign, launched yesterday, to let women over 70 know that they still need to be breast aware.
70.After gender, increasing age is the biggest risk factor for getting breast cancer. Eighty per cent of cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 50 and a third of all breast cancers are in women over 70.
However, after the age of 70 (73 in some areas of England) women in the UK no longer get an automatic invitation to attend breast screening, so they have to request appointments themselves. This does not mean these women are less at risk, in fact breast cancer risk increases with age so women need to remain breast aware. Women are not invited to breast screening over 70 because there is not enough evidence for how effective screening is at saving lives in this age group, although the extension trial of screening (up to the age of 73) is tackling this issue.
World Cancer Day
Women over 70 are at the greatest risk of breast cancer.
Campaigning to improve awareness in older women.
Breast Cancer Campaign has previously promoted the importance of women staying breast aware as they get older, as well as highlighting that women are shockingly unaware of the link between age and increasing breast cancer risk. In fact, in a survey commissioned by Breast Cancer Campaign less than two per cent of women questioned correctly identified the 70+ age group as the one with the greatest risk of breast cancer. They mistakenly believed that women aged 40-49 (32 per cent) or 50-59 (32 per cent) are at most risk of the disease.
We also helped facilitate the All Party Parliamentary Groups on Breast Cancer’s inquiry into breast cancer and older age in 2013. The inquiry collected evidence from experts including patients, medical experts and policy-makers, which revealed that older women with breast cancer are often diagnosed at a later stage than younger women, and are less likely to receive the gold standard of assessment and care. The Inquiry also highlighted that many older women are not aware of symptoms other than lumps and never touch, feel or look at their breasts to know what is normal and check for changes.
The Inquiry found that many people have the misconception that breast cancer is more common in younger women: a myth that we hope the new Be Clear on Cancer campaign will debunk.
Let’s all Be Clear on Cancer and age
Awareness in older women is not just a concern for the UK but across the world, so this World Cancer Day please remember:
Breast cancer risk increases with age
Everyone, no matter their age, should be breast aware and check their breasts
Source: Research Team