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Impact of coronavirus pandemic on breast cancer

Research from Estée Lauder reveals the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on women’s breast health across the UK.

To mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Estée Lauder Companies UK & Ireland has released new research among women showing the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on women’s breast health.

The research shows that one in five women have deprioritised their breast health during the coronavirus pandemic and nearly half are less likely to share their breast health concerns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, more than ever, the campaign calls on the nation to reprioritise their breast health and not to put off getting checked.

  • Nearly half are less likely to share their breast health concerns
  • One in five women have deprioritised their breast health, rising to over a quarter for those under the age of 45
  • A fifth of women under 45 are unlikely to visit a doctor, even if they noticed a change in their breasts
  • Two thirds feel more isolated and less connected
  • However, 84% of women want to unite to help end breast cancer

Nearly two thirds (61%) of women are feeling more isolated and 60% are feeling less connected to their friends and family. Talking about breast cancer and being breast aware is a vital part of creating a cancer free world, yet 43% of women said they would be less likely to share breast health concerns. Despite this, encouragingly 84% of women want to unite with other women, healthcare professionals and breast cancer charities to help end breast cancer.

Since March 2020, over one in five (21%) women have deprioritised their breast health, and a fifth (20%) of women under 45 would be unlikely to visit a doctor if they noticed any unusual changes to their breasts.

Professor Ian Smith, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Professor of Cancer Medicine at the Royal Marsden, and ELC-funded Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) researcher, comments, “Since I first began my career in breast cancer research over 40 year ago, mortality rates have more than halved and promise to continue to decrease thanks to significant advances in breast cancer detection and treatment. This progress is in large part thanks to funding from organisations like The Estée Lauder Companies through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

“However, the coronavirus pandemic has had a severe impact on the fundraising of many organisations so, now more than ever, funding is needed to ensure that breast cancer research can continue to move forward.

“It’s also troubling that, as indicated by this research, some women may be less likely to share concerns about their breast health in the wake of Covid-19. The earlier a breast tumour is found, the better we can treat it, so anyone concerned about a potential breast cancer symptom should get it checked by their GP.”

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK, with an average of approximately 150 cases diagnosed every day.1,2,3,4 Early detection is critical to breast cancer survival rates.

GP and broadcaster Dr Zoe Williams says: “The research conducted showed that 20% of women check their breasts less than once a year and 10% never check their breasts. Regular checking is vital, ideally once a month. There are many different signs to look out for, not just lumps, such as irritation or dimpling of the skin on the breast or flaky skin in the nipple area, to name just a couple. If you notice any unusual changes, it’s important to contact your GP as soon as possible.  According to the research, nearly one in 10 (8%) wouldn’t want to burden their doctor – but please take it from me, that your doctor wants to see you.”

Leanne Pero, breast cancer survivor and founder of Black Women Rising, comments on the research: “It worries me that this new research reveals only half (56%) of the Black women surveyed check their breasts every month. Whilst Black women are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, they are more likely to develop aggressive, more advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age and therefore they are more likely to die from the disease5,6. I am living proof that you can survive breast cancer if you act early. I want to encourage all women, regardless of their age and ethnicity to prioritise their breast health and take action if they suspect something isn’t right.”

Lauren Mahon, breast cancer survivor, founder of Girl vs Cancer and co-host of You, Me and the Big C, says: “It’s so incredibly important for younger women to realise they’re not immune from breast cancer; it’s not just a disease that affects women at a later lifestage. I was only 31 when I was diagnosed with a grade 3 tumour which I found by accident, I wasn’t self-examining at all. It’s unsurprising but worrying to see the research found younger women (21% of 18-34-year olds) are less likely to visit a doctor if they noticed any unusual changes in their breasts. Knowing from first-hand experience the importance of early diagnosis, I urge women of all ages to check their breasts regularly to know what’s normal for them. It’s not about looking for cancer, it’s knowing your body.”

To bring people together with a renewed sense of unity and encourage everyone to be breast aware, The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign UK & Ireland is launching its first ever Time to Unite live virtual event on 21st October at 7pm. The event aims to connect, unite and empower, featuring special guests and campaign supporters including Global Ambassador of The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign, Elizabeth Hurley, Dr Zoe Williams and breast cancer survivors Leanne Pero and Lauren Mahone.  Time to Unite will feature inspirational stories and advice and hopes to be the largest ever live self-check (cameras off!).

Elizabeth Hurley, the Campaign’s long-time Global Ambassador shared, “Being a part of the movement to end breast cancer is my most meaningful work. With people around the world still being diagnosed with breast cancer every minute of every day, the disease remains a challenge that we are dedicated to.  I joined Evelyn to work on The Campaign shortly after she started it in the early in 1990s, when women still did not talk openly about the disease. She would be so proud of how far we have come and the positive impact we have had! I’ve seen the tremendous progress made through the research we have funded, and spoken to many leaders in the field who all tell me the same thing—that we must continue to fund research to advance science, treatments, and care, to bring us closer to a cure. Evelyn had a vision and knew that long-term impact would be the result of our collective actions. I am honoured to wear the Pink Ribbon proudly and be a small part of the global community that is driven to end this disease once and for all.”

The Estée Lauder Companies has been a leader in the global breast cancer movement since Evelyn H. Lauder co-created the Pink Ribbon and started The Campaign in 1992. Now more than ever, The Estée Lauder Companies champions the wellbeing of the global breast cancer community and will continue to drive funds and inspire action. The Campaign has raised more than $89 million globally for lifesaving research, education, and medical services, with more than $73 million funding 293 medical research grants through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF). It’s #TimeToEndBreastCancer.

The Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign UK & Ireland is launching its Time To Unite live virtual self-check event on 21st October at 7pm to unite everyone in their mission to create a breast cancer-free world.


1 Internal data analysis of Cancer Incidence Statistics for England in 2015. Office for National

Statistics. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/


(accessed September 2020)

2. Internal data analysis of Cancer Incidence Statistics for Scotland in 2015. ISD.

http://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Cancer/Cancer-Statistics/ (accessed September 2020)

3 Internal data analysis of Cancer Incidence Statistics for Wales in 2015. Welsh Cancer Intelligence

and Surveillance Unit http://www.wcisu.wales.nhs.uk/cancer-incidence-in-wales-1 (accessed September 2020)

4 Internal data analysis of Cancer Incidence Statistics for Northern Ireland in 2018. Northern

Ireland Cancer Registry https://www.qub.ac.uk/research-centres/nicr/CancerInformation/official-statistics/  (accessed September 2020).

5NCIN. Cancer and equality groups: key metrics. 2015. (accessed September 2020).

6NCIN. Second All Breast Cancer Report. http://www.ncin.org.uk/view.aspx?rid=612

(accessed September 2020).

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