NEW YORK--Two thirds of American women say they are personally
doing something to decrease their chances of getting breast cancer,
but many seem to be confused as to what constitutes the major
breast cancer risk factors, results of a nationwide survey suggest.
When presented with a list of eight possible factors, 48% of the
1,331 respondents to the survey (all of whom were women aged 18
to 65) cited injury to the breast as increasing a woman's risk
of developing breast cancer. Fewer were able to identify some
actual breast cancer risk factors: 42% cited "not having
children," 38% listed "having first child after age
30," and only 25% checked "beginning to menstruate before
When asked to cite the three most important risk factors for breast
cancer from a list of nine such factors, 91% correctly identified
heredity as an important factor, but 53% cited smoking as being
among the top three.
Environmental factors were cited by 37% of the respondents, and
diet by 33%. Not having children was ranked in the top three by
24% of women, and 18% cited stress as an important breast cancer
risk factor. The three lowest rated factors on the list were obesity
(17%), lack of exercise (10%), and alcohol consumption (10%).
When to Get a Mammogram?
The survey also revealed misinformation about mammography among
the respondents. About one third said they were confused about
how often they should have a mammogram, and more than half (58%)
seemed to think that women under age 40 should have regular mammograms.
(These women disagreed with the statement: "Regular mammo-grams
are unnecessary for women under 40 years of age.")
Almost 80% of the respondents believe a woman should not wait
for her physician to recommended a screening mammogram before
getting one. Sixty percent said they have had a mammo-gram, including
35% of those 18 to 39 years of age.