Health.com
September 30, 2008

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 1 (Health.com) — What's scarier than breast cancer? Nothing, say nearly one-third (29%) of the more than 2,000 women who took a recent Health.com/AOL Health online poll.

That’s compared with 41% who said they fear heart disease the most—a smart decision, since heart disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. women. Additionally, 13% of women are more scared of getting fat, while 17% fear a terrorist attack. Other poll results include:

Risk and prevention
Poll results show that 50% of women would choose to have their breasts removed if they tested positive for the breast cancer gene. Actress Christina Applegate recently made headlines when she did just that—she opted for a double mastectomy when cancer was discovered in only one breast. Applegate, who has a BRCA gene and whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, told reporters that she didn't want to undergo tests every few months and worry constantly that the disease would strike again.

When asked whether you think pollution causes breast cancer, the response was split evenly, with 50% answering yes, and 50% saying no. The scientific community also seems uncertain about pollution's exact role in breast cancer development, although studies have linked exposure to industrial and agricultural chemicals with increased cancer rates. Other environmental factors likely play a role as well, in addition to family history and lifestyle choices such as diet and physical activity. (Read what Health.com's breast cancer blogger discovered when she recently investigated breast cancer risk by state.)

Screening and detection
In terms of breast self-exams—a controversial topic that hasn't been proven to reduce deaths from breast cancer but which many experts still recommend—59% of respondents perform them sporadically, 15% do them every day, and 26% never do. (Learn how to perform a self-exam here.)

Most women (70%) age 40 and older get an annual mammogram. But that still leaves almost a third who aren't getting these lifesaving tests. The American Cancer Society recommends that women at this age start getting a mammogram and a clinical breast exam every year. (Read Health.com's decade-by-decade guide for screening and prevention.)

Advocacy and awareness
Almost three-quarters (73%) of those polled have had friends or loved ones who've battled breast cancer. And with roughly 200,000 women in America diagnosed every year—whether it's your mother, your next door neighbor, or a celebrity you admire—it make sense that so many people are affected.

The poll result with the biggest "yes" response, however, was about the fight for a cure: 75% of respondents believe that breast cancer research is underfunded. During October, you'll likely encounter lots of opportunities to donate to the cause or to purchase "pink" products that donate proceeds (see slideshows of fitness gear and spa-related products that do just that), but many of you believe that awareness and advocacy should be a year-round goal.

For more information on prevention, detection, treatment, and survival—including valuable expert advice and emotional stories from women who've been there—visit Health.com's in-depth Breast Cancer Journey.

By Amanda MacMillan

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