In a Breastcancer.org survey of 2,500 girls ages 8-18, nearly 30% believed they might currently have breast cancer.
How is this possible when, in fact, the likelihood of any girl under age 18 having breast cancer is exceedingly rare? Why are so many girls mistaking the normal signs of breast development as symptoms of breast cancer?
The source of their fear
Over the past 30 years, the breast cancer awareness movement has saved many lives. But as revolutionary as the movement has been, something important has been overlooked. Few, if any, have considered the unintended fallout of surrounding young girls with constant messages about breast cancer.
Impressionable girls seem to respond to the information with fear — they don’t have the resources to understand the meaning and relevance of these critical issues.
Replacing fear with facts
To deflate unrealistic fears, young girls living in the breast-cancer-awareness era need accurate information and reassurance.
More than 20% of the girls we surveyed believe that breast cancer is caused by infection, tanning, drug use, stress, and breast injury or bruising. The fact is, none of these are risk factors. And, sadly, few girls surveyed knew how to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
It is also clear that without accessible and accurate information, girls can mistake regular breast development changes (such as the formation of breast buds) as symptoms of breast cancer.
Bottom line: our girls lack information that can empower them to establish breast-healthy behaviors to reduce the risk of ever getting breast cancer.
Breastcancer.org has the power to make a difference.
Breastcancer.org is uniquely poised to fill the information gap.
We plan to spread the message about breast health and breast cancer prevention to young girls across the nation through multiple channels including our groundbreaking school assembly program, Dr. Marisa Weiss’s book Taking Care of Your “Girls:” A Breast Health Guide for Girls, Teens, and In-Betweens, and an upcoming website.
Dr. Weiss, leading breast oncologist and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org, has pioneered a school assembly program to introduce the national conversation on breast health.
In these groundbreaking assemblies, Dr. Weiss talks openly with girls about breast development and the complex health and emotional issues associated with this vulnerable period in a girl’s life.
These programs are a definitive step in making breast health promotion and breast cancer prevention a reality. The time has come to dispel the myths, to empower health, to build community, and to help girls face the future with knowledge and confidence.
Thank you to the following generous funders:
- The Kelly Rooney Foundation
- Save 2nd Base
- The Noreen Fraser Foundation
- Wall Street Journal: "Girl Talk: Early Education Eases Fears of Breast Cancer" September 2, 2008
- See Dr. Marisa Weiss on ABC's Good Morning America September 3, 2008
Taking Care of Your “Girls”
Dr. Weiss and her 18-year-old daughter, Isabel, have co-authored Taking Care of Your “Girls:” A Breast Health Guide for Girls, Teens, and In-Betweens, published by Random House. They talk candidly about breast development and breast health — separating myths from facts and detailing everyday steps to improve breast health and reduce breast cancer risk over a lifetime.
Encourage a young woman you love to contribute her own "girls" story. Visit www.TakingCareOfYourGirls.com.
Facts that might surprise you
- Only 1 out of 10 breast cancers has a known inherited genetic link.
- Nine out of 10 breast cancer cases can be triggered and/or promoted by unhealthy lifestyle factors and environmental exposures including:
- lack of exercise
- alcohol consumption
- unhealthy chemicals consumed through eating, drinking (many plastic containers used in packaged food and drinks can be harmful), breathing, and using personal care products (including certain hair care products such as relaxers).
- During the 10 years of breast development, a girl’s food, water, beverages, and air are the building blocks of their new breast tissue — the foundation of their future breast health.