Misinformed Women Think There is a Higher Risk of Breast Cancer Than Heart Disease

Providers need to better inform patients about the risks of heart disease compared with breast cancer.

In a recent study, researchers found that minority and less educated women thought that breast cancer was a more common killer of women than heart disease.

"Part of the Affordable Care Act is designed to help health care providers identify strategies to encourage the population to live healthier and prevent breast cancer and heart disease," said Julie M. Kapp, MPH, PhD. "But before we can develop these targeted approaches, we have to understand the perceptions and behaviors of our audience -- in this case, premenopausal women."

According to the study, published in Public Health Management Practice, 1 in 30 women will die from breast cancer, while 1 in 7 will die from heart disease. Obesity is particularly concerning for healthcare providers.

"The pink ribbon is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world and is associated with a very effective campaign, which might relate to the perception that breast cancer is a more common killer than other women's health issues," Dr Kapp said. "Perhaps because of this, we found that minority women and women with a college education or less had greater odds of believing that breast cancer, rather than heart disease, causes more deaths in women yearly. Additionally, a quarter of the women surveyed reported that they are not making healthy lifestyle changes related to breast health, even though premenopausal women have the most to gain in knowledge and behaviors over their lifetime."

Researchers conclude that healthcare providers should leverage messages about healthy lifestyles for obesity and heart disease, all while keeping up with breast health. Healthcare providers should also target these messages to different cultural and ethnic groups and education levels.