Many US Women Misinformed About Breast Cancer

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Although most U.S. women consider themselves to be knowledgeable about breast cancer, many have inaccurate information, according to a survey released Monday by the National Breast Cancer Coalition, the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to the survey, many women believe that most breast cancer cases are caused by heredity or genetic; however, only 5% to 10% of cases are caused by genetic mutations that can be inherited. In addition, the survey found that about two-thirds of women ages 18 to 24 believe breast cancer can be prevented. A woman's risk for the disease can be reduced by avoiding alcohol or taking hormone replacement therapy, but it cannot be eliminated, according to the Tribune. The survey also found that 70% of women believe eating enough fruits and vegetables will help prevent breast cancer, but there is scant scientific evidence to support the theory.

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Four out of 10 of the women who participated in the study believe regular self examinations are the best way to detect breast cancer early, and about the same number of women believe mammograms are the best way to detect the disease early. According to the Tribune, studies have found that self-exams sometimes lead to anxiety and unnecessary biopsies and do not prevent deaths from breast cancer. Mammograms have been shown to decrease the risk of dying of breast cancer, but the screening can be inaccurate and can lead to diagnosis and treatment of a noncancerous tumor, the Tribune reports.

Fran Visco, president of NBCC, said messages that raise awareness about breast cancer "lull the public into a false sense that adequate progress is being made." She added, "There's a lot of misinformation out there. In order to take meaningful action, we need to educate, not just raise awareness." According to Visco, there is still much to learn about breast cancer before the disease can be cured.

NBCC Launches Breast Cancer Caucus
In an effort to increase awareness and improve public policy related to breast cancer, NBCC recently launched the Breast Cancer Caucus, which asks presidential candidates to outline specific approaches to breast cancer research, prevention and care, as well as plans for universal health care. "Every candidate has been asked to give us a three-minute video and to explain their position on our public policy agenda," Visco said (Peres, Chicago Tribune, 10/1).

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