Page last updated at 00:24 GMT, Friday, 21 September 2007 01:24 UK

60% 'unaware of cancer age link'

Breast screening
Women over the age of 50 are invited to attend breast screening

Most British women are unaware that breast cancer risk increases with age, a poll suggests.

A survey of 1,000 people by charity Breast Cancer Care found nearly six out of 10 women did not know getting older was a strong risk factor.

More than 44,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK and 80% of all cases occur in over-50s.

Experts said many young women can worry unnecessarily while older women do not realise they are at risk.

The poll found that 58% did not know that the older they get, the higher their risk of breast cancer.

It's extremely alarming that most women over 70 do not take up breast screening, as this increases the likelihood that any breast cancer they may develop is found at a later stage
Christine Fogg

Women aged 18-24 were better informed.

But 65% of women aged 45-54 knew there was a strong link between getting older and risk of the disease.

The charity said lack of knowledge was particularly concerning in those over the age of 70 years as a third did not believe it was necessary to check their breasts at that age.

And although most knew they had the right to request breast screening, only a quarter took up the opportunity.

Early detection

Christine Fogg, joint chief executive of Breast Cancer Care said: "The link between increasing age and breast cancer risk is well established yet these astonishing results reveal that the message is failing to reach the majority.

"It's extremely alarming that most women over 70 do not take up breast screening, as this increases the likelihood that any breast cancer they may develop is found at a later stage, which could limit options and reduce the success of any treatment.

She called on the government and screening services to look at why the link to age is not well known.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: "Confusion arises when celebrities like Kylie Minogue and Caron Keating, who have developed breast cancer, attract publicity in magazines read by young women.

"While it is helpful to raise awareness of the disease it can cause young women to worry unnecessarily. It may also mislead older women to think that ageing is not a factor in breast cancer.

"It is important to remember than four out of five cases are in women over 50. So it is extremely important for women in this age group to attend breast screening when invited."

Carole Rawson, 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in April following a routine screening appointment.

"I didn't have a lump so would not have known I had anything wrong, and that could be the case for others.

"It's not a case that if you haven't got a lump then you don't need to be screened."

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