Women are “shockingly unaware” that they are most at risk of breast cancer in older age, a new study has revealed. According to the findings, those over 70 are most likely to contract the disease but are the least well informed about its dangers. The study, commissioned by charity Breast Cancer Campaign, also found that awareness of the greatest breast cancer threat – increasing age – was “alarmingly” low across the board.
Less than 2% of women surveyed correctly identified those aged 70 and above as being most at risk of breast cancer.
They mistakenly believed that women aged 40-49 (32%) or 50-59 (32%) stood a greater chance of contracting the disease.
Meanwhile, the study showed that women aged over 70 – those most at risk – were less likely to use their entitlement to routine breast screening than any other demographic and could be ignoring vital signs of cancer.
Around two in five (39%) of people in this age group checked their breasts less than once a year or not at all.
The report found only half (53%) of women in England aged over 70 were aware they are entitled to request NHS routine screening, with only 14% attending appointments after turning 71.
Reasons for not going through this process included having no family history of breast cancer; believing they were unlikely to get breast cancer at a certain age or having transport difficulties.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “It is extremely worrying that although age is the biggest risk factor when it comes to developing breast cancer, less than 2% of women are aware that women over 70 are most at risk.
“We read daily about different risk factors for breast cancer including alcohol and weight. While these are important, age is the most significant risk factor of all and yet women, including those most likely to be affected, remain in the dark about this.
“A third of all breast cancer diagnoses in the UK (over 15,000 per year) occur in women aged 70 and over, so it is absolutely vital that women of this age are better informed about their risk and the steps they can take to ensure their breast health is a priority.”
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer with around 48,000 people diagnosed in Britain every year.
Some 12,000 people die each year from the disease.