The Young Survival Coalition Cautions: Canadian Task Force Findings on BSE Have No Bearing on Women Under 40

September 28, 2001

The Young Survival Coalition Cautions: Canadian Task Force Findings on BSE Have No Bearing on Women Under 40

New York, NY - (September 28, 2001)

YSC cautions the public about the recently published recommendations by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care1, concluding that there was a lack of sufficient evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of BSE in women younger than 40 years, and as a result, the Canadian Task Force's recommendations have no bearing whatsoever on breast self-examination (BSE) practices for women under 40. YSC views the findings as another call to action for increased research in this underserved population, and for a better screening methodology for all women.

As is typically the case, women 40 and under are grossly under-represented in research studies, and consequently, the recommendations provided for the older population have been generalized by the media and cycled into the mainstream as the standard recommendation for all.

The Task Force also concluded, there was little evidence for the effectiveness of routinely teaching BSE to the under 40 age group, therefore recommending that teaching BSE be excluded from health examinations. The Task Force added, "Because the incidence of breast cancer is low in this age group, the risk of net harm from BSE and BSE instruction is even more likely."

The YSC disputes the Canadian Task Force's position; while the incidence of breast cancer is lower in women under 40, it is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 35 to 40 in the United States.2

"Younger women have no other existing methodology for detecting breast cancer besides monthly BSE and annual clinical examination," commented Randi Rosenberg, YSC's Educational Programming and Medical Outreach Officer. "We agree that BSE is not a very effective method for breast cancer detection in younger women because cancer detected by BSE is already at a later stage and we know that early detection and treatment access are the keys to survival. However, BSE is the only method currently available to younger women - but it's only effective if we are educated enough to know how and when to do it."

Ms. Rosenberg added, "The YSC will continue to strongly advocate for the medical research community to develop an accurate and effective breast cancer screening tool for younger women and all women. Until that time, we continue to recommend that young women perform a monthly BSE and have annual exams by a clinician beginning at age 20."

1 The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Helath Care published its findings and recommendations in the June 26th, 2001 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The full, published article can be found at http://www.cma.ca/cmaj/vol-164/issue-13/pdf/pf1837.pdf.

2 American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts 2001, www.cancer.org

For more information about the Young Survival Coalition, contact Jeannine Salamone at (703) 924-6244 or Tracy Pleva Hill at (203)705-9229.