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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
'Kylie effect' skews cancer fears
Kylie Minogue
Kylie's breast cancer increased young women's awareness
Most women mistakenly think breast cancer is more likely to affect those under 70 than those who are older, a Cancer Research UK survey has found.

The charity, which talked to 2,289 women, found 77% thought the risk was higher for under-70s, and a third thought under-50s were most at risk.

It said the misconceptions were due to "the Kylie effect", where celebrities' cancers got disproportionate attention.

Cancer Research UK said 80% of breast cancer cases were seen in over-50s.

This survey shows that most women simply don't equate older age with higher risk
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK

The charity said the risk of breast cancer actually increases with age.

Up to the age of 40, women have a one in 200 risk of breast cancer.

This increases to one in 50 up to the age of 50.

But for women over the age of 70, breast cancer risk rises to one in 11.

'Chain of panic'

Dr Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK said: "The survey illustrates another aspect of what has come to be known as 'the Kylie effect'.

"Celebrities with breast cancer like Kylie Minogue and Caron Keating have attracted a lot of publicity - especially in magazines aimed at younger women.

"This is very beneficial in that it raises awareness of breast cancer.

"But the down side is that it may also set up a chain of panic among young women, while misleading older women to think that ageing is not a relevant factor in breast cancer.

"This survey shows that most women simply don't equate older age with higher risk.

"But 80% of breast cancer cases are in women over 50. That is why it is so important for women to go for breast screening from the age of 50 when they are invited every three years.

"Although screening invitations stop at 70, women are fully entitled to continue to be regularly screened if they ask their doctor for an appointment."

Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, said: "It is always distressing when women of any age are diagnosed with breast cancer, and particularly so when the woman is young with her life still ahead of her.

"It is important that women should be aware of the disease and its early signs.

"But it is essential to remember that four out of five cases of breast cancer are in women over 50 and those most at risk would be at least a generation older than Kylie Minogue and Caron Keating."

However Dr Sarah Rawlings, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "Women of all ages tell us that Kylie's diagnosis has made them more aware of breast cancer, however, most breast cancers occur in older women and the risk increases with age.

"The best thing all women should do is not panic but show their breasts some TLC - touch and look for anything unusual and check this with your doctor, as the earlier breast cancer is caught the easier it is to treat."

Family fell to pieces, says Kylie
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