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Public misunderstand elderly cancer risk

24th October 2006

A survey has found that the majority of the British public believe that breast cancer is more likely to strike those under 70 than those who are older.

The Cancer Research UK study discovered that 77 per cent of Britons believe that the risk of suffering from breast cancer was higher for those under the age of 70.

A third of those canvassed thought that under 50s are most at risk.

The charity blamed the misconception on the "Kylie effect", which gives an unbalanced amount of attention to celebrity cases.

"Celebrities with breast cancer like Kylie Minogue and Caron Keating have attracted a lot of publicity - especially in magazines aimed at younger women," said Dr Lesley Walker from the charity.

She said that this is very beneficial in that it raises awareness of breast cancer but the "down side is that it may also 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".

Women up to the age of 40 have a 0.5 per cent risk of contracting the disease, rising to two per cent for those up to the age of 50.

However, breast cancer strikes one in 11 women over the age of 70.