Women May Overestimate Breast Cancer Risk, Underestimate Obesity, Heart Disease Risks

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Julie M. Kapp, MPH, PhD Associate Professor 2014 Baldrige Executive Fellow University of Missouri School of Medicine Department of Health Management and Informatics Columbia, MO 65212

Dr. Kapp

Julie M. Kapp, MPH, PhD
Associate Professor
2014 Baldrige Executive Fellow
University of Missouri School of Medicine
Department of Health Management and Informatics
Columbia, MO 65212

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Kapp: For the past several decades the U.S. has had the highest obesity rate compared to high-income peer countries, and for many years people in the U.S. have had a shorter life expectancy. For female life expectancy at birth, the U.S. ranked second to last. At the same time, the U.S. has the third highest rate of mammography screening among peer countries, and the pink ribbon is one of the most widely recognized symbols in the U.S. While the death rate in females for coronary heart disease is significantly higher than that for breast cancer, at 1 in 7.2 deaths compared to 1 in 30, respectively, women have higher levels of worry for getting breast cancer.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Dr. Kapp: This study examined the area local to a mid-Missouri health care facility to understand premenopausal (ages 35 to 49) women’s:

1) perceptions of the risk of U.S. female population-based breast cancer mortality compared to heart disease mortality;
2) perceived likelihood of developing breast cancer; and
3) recognition of the association between modifiable lifestyle factors and breast cancer risk.

Findings revealed demographics of women with gaps in their understanding of health risks and health promotion behaviors, which warrant strategic educational campaigns to ensure they are leading healthy lifestyles to reduce their chances of multiple chronic diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and breast cancer. In this sample, minority women and women with a college education or less had a significantly greater odds of reporting that breast cancer would cause more deaths in U.S. women this year than heart disease. Women who have had a mammogram had an elevated perceived likelihood of developing breast cancer. Women in this study with less than a college education had significantly greater odds of not recognizing behavioral or lifestyle changes people can make that might reduce their chances of getting breast cancer.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Dr. Kapp: Modifiable factors that reduce one’s risk of heart disease, namely physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight, may also reduce one’s risk of breast cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recently recommended a need for increased knowledge regarding the link between energy balance and cancer risk.

While obesity is most strongly associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk, premenopausal women have the most to gain in life expectancy from knowledge of and actions toward healthy lifestyle behaviors, including moderation of alcohol consumption, and tobacco cessation.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Kapp: Updating the association of the pink ribbon from largely encouraging screening to also encouraging breast health through healthy lifestyle behaviors is one strategy.

The patient-physician encounter is another strategic opportunity for physicians to emphasize the effect of healthy lifestyles not only on cardiovascular diseases but also cancer.

The study, “A Strategy for Addressing Population Health Management,” recently was published in Public Health Management Practice. Co-authors on the study included Debra Parker Oliver, professor of MU Family and Community Medicine, and Eduardo J. Simoes, professor and chair of the Department of Health Management and Informatics. The study was funded by a University of Missouri Research Council grant (URC 11-009). 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.


J Public Health Manag Pract. 2016 Feb 23. [Epub ahead of print]
A Strategy for Addressing Population Health Management.
Kapp JM1, Oliver DP, Simoes EJ.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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