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Eur J Cancer Prev. 2004 Aug;13(4):249-56.

Awareness of breast cancer incidence and risk factors among healthy women.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Erlangen, Universitaetsstrasse 21-23, D-91054 Erlangen, Germany.


The efficacy of early breast cancer detection programmes seems to be mainly influenced by the awareness of breast cancer in general among healthy women. This study aimed to provide information about women's understanding of breast cancer incidence and risk of disease. Based on a newly developed questionnaire 2108 healthy women were asked about their knowledge and perceptions in relation to breast cancer incidence, risk factors, risk perception and level of concern. Of these women 78.8% were well aware of breast cancer in general terms. However, there were major aspects such as incidence or risk factors that were poorly understood. Only one-third correctly estimated the incidence of breast cancer; 95% understood breast cancer in the familial history as a risk factor, but only 57% understood the age risk; 37.1% of women perceived hormonal contraceptives and 35.9% hormonal replacement therapy as risk factors of breast cancer. The latter estimation was significantly higher in women above 40 years. Recommendations for the improvement of cancer prevention programmes include targeting understanding of lifetime risk of breast cancer, age as a risk factor, survival from breast cancer or hormonal factors. There is a need to separately address the perceptions of women depending on age, social status and educational levels.

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