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October 2021

Prev Med. 1997 Jan-Feb; 26(1): 109-13.

Beliefs about dietary factors in breast cancer prevention among American women, 1991 to 1995.

Barnard ND, Nicholson A.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC 20016, USA.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the percentage of American women in various demographic groups who believe or have heard that dietary factors have a role in breast cancer prevention and to assess changes between 1991 and 1995. METHODS: Telephone surveys were conducted of random samples of 509 women in 1991 and 510 women in 1995. Subjects were asked questions with increasing prompting to gauge their beliefs about the role of dietary factors in breast cancer prevention. RESULTS: The percentages of women citing dietary factors (reducing intake of fat or meat or increasing intake of vegetables, fruit, fiber, or vegetarian meals) as reducing the risk of developing breast cancer were 20% in 1991 and 23% in 1995. These numbers were lower among young, poor, and less educated women. When specifically prompted to consider dietary steps, the number citing such factors increased to 37% in 1991 and to 52% in 1995. CONCLUSION: The belief that there is a role for dietary factors in breast cancer is far from universal among American women, although some measures of the awareness of dietary factors increased significantly between 1991 and 1995. Women are more likely to cite mammography and breast self-examination as preventive steps, even though both are designed for detection rather than prevention. Additional efforts are needed to provide information on cancer prevention, particularly to young, poor, and less educated women, and to clarify the role of prevention as distinct from cancer detection.

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