There’s no denying the power of breast cancer awareness efforts—especially in October, a month-long campaign that features everything from special jerseys on NFL players to marathon fundraising walks to pink ribbons everywhere.
Creating greater awareness of breast cancer is crucial for persuading more women to have regular screenings, and is credited with contributing to a decrease in death rates from the disease over the last couple decades. But there may be an unintended consequence to the effectiveness of the campaign: The actual leading cause of death in women—heart disease—is getting less play. And that could be dangerous, some experts believe.
It isn’t called the silent killer for nothing. “Women are much more likely than men to have ‘atypical’ symptoms of heart disease, which can make it challenging to know when there’s an issue,” Andy Barnett, M.D., medical director of Legacy Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, tells SELF. That’s why it’s so important for women to be proactive in taking steps to ensure their hearts are healthy, he says. But many don’t realize they need to be.
While breast cancer is getting a top spot in health perception nationwide, women are neglecting to realize the dangers of heart disease. Is it possible that pink’s prominence is causing an unintended, negative impact on women’s heart health?
Even when it comes to health issues, marketing is a really powerful tool.
Researchers at the University of Missouri were struck by how recent studies indicated that the U.S. has a disadvantage in women’s life expectancy compared to peer countries, despite high rates of health screenings like mammography and breast cancer awareness.
They decided to look at perception of risk, and asked about 600 women aged 35 to 49 about breast cancer risk versus heart disease risk. The researchers found that minority women and those with lower education levels were significantly more likely to believe that breast cancer causes more deaths among women than heart disease, according to lead researcher Julie Kapp, M.P.H, Ph.D., associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.
“We were not especially surprised by the findings, given the pink ribbon is one of the most widely recognized symbols in the United States and may lead to the perception that it (breast cancer) causes more deaths,” she says.
It doesn’t. The number one cause of death for women in the U.S. is heart disease, followed by all cancers, among which breast cancer ranks as the second-most deadly. About 40,450 women are expected to die from breast cancer in the U.S this year, according to breastcancer.org—that’s around 1 in 30. As many as 1 in 3 women die each year from cardiovascular disease or stroke—more than from all cancers combined.
News and Image Source: self.com