The high-profile story of Kylie Minogue's fight against breast cancer has helped to increase public awareness of the disease but may have misled the public over the age at which it usually strikes.
Experts at Cancer Research UK are concerned that, while younger women are now more concerned about their risk of developing the disease, some older women wrongly assume that age is not a factor.
The charity's Dr Lesley Walker said that the so-called 'Kylie effect' may "set up a chain of panic among young women while misleading older women to think that ageing is not a relevant factor in breast cancer".
In fact, statistics show that one in 11 women over the age of 70 develop breast cancer, compared to one in 50 below the age of 50 and one in 200 up to the age of 40.
The reality contrasts significantly with the public perception of the disease. Over three quarters – 77 per cent – of respondents to a survey carried out by the charity thought that women under the age of 70 were more likely to develop the disease than over-70s.
Despite the facts, women over 70 are not invited for regular screening, meaning that detection of the disease is less likely and cancer treatment is often delayed.
Professor John Toy, medical director of Cancer Research UK, commented: "It is important that women should be aware of the disease and its early signs.
"But it is essential to remember that four out of five cases of breast cancer are in women over 50 and those most at risk would be at least a generation older than Kylie Minogue and Caron Keating."
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Cancer treatment news : 24/10/2006