The Sun's campaign may actually harm women

April 1, 2014, British Medical Journal

A breast check campaign by The Sun newspaper may actually harm women, warns Glasgow general practitioner Margaret McCartney today.

The "check 'em Tuesday" campaign is a weekly call for to examine their breasts. Readers are asked to send in photos to prove compliance and can even sign up for a reminder.

But Dr McCartney argues that teaching women to examine their breasts regularly "has been shown not to reduce deaths from and actually increases the chances of a benign biopsy result." She says it is "unfair to tell women that regular self examination will save their lives when it may simply incur anxiety and have the potential to harm."

She points out that this is just one aspect of a bigger move to promote untested "breast awareness."

For example, the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which is not connected to The Sun's campaign, tells women to "touch, look, feel" regularly and advocates "knowing what your breasts look and feel like normally" as well as being able to name "the 5 signs of breast cancer."

NHS Choices suggests that women should examine their breasts at different times of the month in the shower or bath and lists nine changes to "look out for" and to "look and feel."

The charity CoppaFeel, which is involved with The Sun's , offers text message reminders to prompt women to do a regular self examination.

Dr McCartney argues that public health messages "should be based on evidence" and that their effects "need to be proved to affect behaviour in a way that is helpful and not harmful." She says: "If we fail to critically evaluate campaigns on cancer, we create the appearance of doing something useful while potentially distracting from what might really help. In doing so we potentially harm the very women we're purporting to help." The Sun's primary interest is in selling papers; so what are the charities' and the NHS's excuses, she asks?

Explore further: Large breasts a cancer risk: study

More information: www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.g2447

Related Stories

Large breasts a cancer risk: study

July 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Women with large breasts have a higher incidence of breast cancer than those with average-sized breasts, according to a study by medical students and researchers at The University of Western Australia ...

Deprivation responsible for 450 breast cancer deaths each year

November 5, 2013
Deprivation could be responsible for around 450 deaths from breast cancer every year in England as women in lower income groups are likely to be diagnosed when the disease is more advanced, and treatment is less effective.

Discovery signals new treatment for those at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer

March 27, 2014
Cancer researchers at Queen's University Belfast have made a breakthrough which could signal new treatments for women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Women with breast cancer gene mutation more likely to survive cancer after double mastectomy

February 11, 2014
Women who carry a mutation on the BRCA breast cancer gene - and are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer - are significantly less likely to die if they undergo a double mastectomy than those who have only one breast removed, ...

Breast cancer patients in need of more psychological support

March 20, 2014
For women who are suffering from breast cancer, concern for their children is the greatest source of worry. A researcher at The University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has shown this, and believes that women who are at the earliest ...

Breast cancer risk related to changes in breast density as women age

December 3, 2013
Automated breast density measurement is predictive of breast cancer risk in younger women, and that risk may be related to the rate at which breast density changes in some women as they age, according to research being presented ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.