Despite high rates of health screenings such as mammography and popular national awareness campaigns, the United States doesn’t do as well as other countries in terms of women’s life expectancy.
This may stem from the perceptions of risk, according to a new study that finds minority and less-educated women believe that breast cancer—not heart disease—is the more common killer.
Based on these findings, scientists recommend that health care providers incorporate lifestyle strategies for heart disease with messages for improved breast health.
“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,” says Julie M. Kapp, associate professor in the health management and informatics department at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
“But before we can develop these targeted approaches, we have to understand the perceptions and behaviors of our audience—in this case, premenopausal women.”
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death in the US, killing one in 30 women.
But, the death rate for heart disease—one in seven—is significantly higher. Obesity remains at the top of health care providers’ concerns.
“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,” Kapp says.
“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.”
The study appears in the journal Public Health Management Practice.