Objective There is increasing interest in combining postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT) and SERMs in midlife women. We previously showed that refusal to participate in a prevention trial of low dose tamoxifen in HT users was associated with higher worry about breast cancer. Given this counterintuitive finding, we studied which factors influenced worry and risk perception of breast cancer. Methods We assessed the relationships of breast cancer worry and risk perception with age, age at menopause, Gail risk, education, adherence to mammographic screening, BMI, smoking, physical activity, alcohol use, anxiety and depression in 457 midlife HT users who were eligible to participate in the trial. Results Women with menopause <48 years were more worried about breast cancer than women with menopause >52 years (OR = 5.0, 95% CI, 1.2–21.1). Worry was also associated with high absolute risk perception and former smoking. Factors associated with higher risk perception were age>60 years, at-risk life style, worry about breast cancer and depression. Conclusions The inverse association between early menopause and worry about breast cancer is in contrast with the known protective effect of early menopause on breast cancer risk and seems to reflect a feeling of aging and disease vulnerability. Our findings indicate that worry about cancer has an affective construct which is independent of breast cancer biology but is engaged in health decision making. Increasing breast cancer risk awareness in subjects high in worry without a plan of emotional coping may therefore be counterproductive because of avoidant attitudes.
- Breast cancer
- Cancer risk perception
- Cancer worry
- Postmenopausal hormone therapy
ASJC Scopus subject areas