According to results recently published in the European Journal of Cancer, young women have a poor understanding of lifestyle and genetic risk factors involved in the development of breast cancer.

It is estimated that one in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer within their lifetime. Due to the prevalence of this disease, researchers have been trying to educate the public about certain risk factors that may increase or decrease a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. The goal is to influence women to make appropriate lifestyle choices or undergo screening measure if they are at a high risk of developing the disease. Young women can benefit the most from knowing about risk factors for breast cancer because these factors are present during their entire lifetime.

Researchers recently conducted an international survey among female university students regarding risk factors associated with the development of breast cancer. This study included students from 23 countries between 1999 and 2001.

  • 57% of women were aware of a genetic link to breast cancer.
  • Only 5% were aware that alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, and obesity contributed to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Participants often named factors that have not demonstrated an association with risks of breast cancer.

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The researchers concluded that many younger women do not understand specific risk factors and their role in the development of breast cancer. Women in the United States had a better understanding of these risk factors than women from other countries; however, it is remains important for the public to understand specific risk factors, particularly those that can be affected by lifestyle, for developing various types of cancer.

Reference: Peacey V, Steptoe A, Davidsdottir S, et al. Low levels of breast cancer risk awareness in young women: an international survey. European Journal of Cancer. 2006;42:2585-2589.

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