Black and South Asian women, as well as women under 40 years of age, are the least likely to check their breasts for signs of cancer, new research has found.
A wide-ranging study of 2,000 women in the UK, aged 18 to 80, reveals that the majority (78 per cent) aren’t checking their breasts regularly, with a third admitting they never check themselves.
Of those who don’t check themselves regularly, Black women are the least likely (76 per cent) to do so, followed by women under 40 (69 per cent) and South Asian women (63 per cent).
Among these minority ethnic groups, 12 per cent said they don’t self-check due to stigma around acknowledging or speaking about the subject of breast cancer.
More than a fifth (21 per cent) of South Asian women added that they worried their community or family would judge them if they found out they were checking their own breasts regularly.
On the other hand, a quarter (24 per cent) of Black women said they don’t self-check on a regular basis due to a lack of education from older female relatives, with 14 per cent feeling uncomfortable touching their breasts.
The research, carried out by beauty giant Estee Lauder’s Breast Cancer Campaign, also reveals the reasons why so many women do not regularly check their breasts for signs of cancer.
More than a third (35 per cent) said they forget to do so, while 17 per cent said they lack the confidence to check themselves.
Meanwhile, 13 per cent don’t check because they are fearful of what they might find, while more than a fifth (22 per cent) of women over 50 years old said they are too busy to put their breast health first.
The company, which manufactures and markets a huge range of beauty brands including Aveda, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, Jo Malone, MAC, Le Labo, Smashbox and more, has appointed new ambassadors to help raise awareness of the importance of self-checking among under-represented communities.
The four new ambassadors are Lauren Mahon, founder of Girl VS Cancer; Leanne Pero, founder of Black Women Rising; Kreena Dhiman, a breast cancer survivor; and GP Dr Zoe Williams.
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Estee Lauder also pledged to donate US$15m (approximately £13.4m) over the next five years to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Dhiman, who is now the Ireland ambassador for the campaign, said: “As South Asians, we find it uncomfortable to have conversations around breast cancer awareness because we rarely share our fears and vulnerabilities.
“Many of our families are immigrants who have seen real hardship in life. Despite that, as a community many South Asians have huge success stories and there’s a perception that a cancer diagnosis could disturb that.
“It doesn’t surprise me that 63 per cent of South Asians are not self-checking regularly enough and that a fifth are not regularly self-checking due to lack of education from older female relatives. Breast cancer knowledge is not passed down in the family.”
She added: “Typically, we are a community that doesn’t share our fears, struggles or concerns. We need to change that behaviour so that everybody feels confident to own their breast health.”
Pero, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, said: “There is a lot of fear amongst Black women around breast cancer and we wrongly believe that it doesn’t affect us. The data clearly shows that we are not feeling represented in awareness campaigns and that needs to change.
“I want to encourage all women, regardless of their age and ethnicity to prioritise their breast health and act if they suspect something isn’t right. I am living proof that you can survive breast cancer if you act early.”