'Kylie Effect' Prompted More Breast Checks: Australian Expert

by Thilaka Ravi on Oct 28 2008 4:57 PM

Singer Kylie Minogue's public battle with breast cancer increased breast cancer awareness and prompted more women to have screening checks, even though some of these were ineffective, an Australian expert said Monday.

The pint-sized Minogue, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2005 aged 36, had created a rise in screening tests, the so-called "Kylie Effect", said doctor Helen Zorbas, the director of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre.

Zorbas said when more and more famous women such as Minogue and actress Christina Applegate developed the disease, "you could be forgiven for thinking there was an epidemic among the young."

But while breast cancer was the most common cancer and the greatest cause of cancer death in women, only about six percent of the 12,000 Australian women diagnosed with the disease each year were under 40.

"It is important to dispel the misconceptions, address unnecessary alarm and provide the facts for this age group," she told a breast-cancer awareness breakfast in Sydney.

"The so-called 'Kylie Effect' led to an increase in the number of women who made bookings for mammograms but many of these women were in the under 40 age group, where mammographic screening is not effective."

Zorbas said a mammogram, a type of imaging X-ray screening used to detect and diagnose breast disease, was able to clearly detect a cancer in older women.

But it was almost impossible to find a lump in young women's breasts because of the difference in tissue.

"Although screening mammography is effective in finding cancers early and saving lives in older women, at this time, there is no effective screening test for breast cancer in women under 40," Zorbas said.

Zorbas said the best way for young women to detect the disease was for them to know their own bodies and pick up any changes in their breasts or signs of the disease early.