Australian women's perceptions of breast cancer risk factors and the risk of developing breast cancer
Background Numerous studies have shown that the majority of women overestimate both their own risk and the populations’ risk of developing breast cancer. A number of factors have been found to correlate with perceived risk. Methods This paper reports on a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of approximately 3,000 Australian women aged 30 to 69 years, conducted in 2007, and compares the findings with those of a similar survey conducted in 2003. Results There was a clear tendency for respondents to overestimate the proportion of women who will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Approximately half the respondents perceived themselves as being at the same risk of developing breast cancer as other women their age; older respondents were more likely to perceive themselves to be at a lower than average risk. Family history was recognized as a risk factor for breast cancer, although there was evident confusion in relation to risk from paternal family history. It was also evident that the association between age and risk status is poorly understood, and misconceptions of breast cancer risk factors identified in the previous survey persisted in 2007. Conclusion Overall, these results suggest that there remains an educational challenge if we seek to increase the accuracy of women’s perceptions of their risk for developing breast cancer, primarily in relation to the significance of age and family history as breast cancer risk factors.
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