ELDERLY women have been told to be more aware of the dangers of breast cancer.

Women over 70 are not routinely screened, yet new figures from Public Health England [PHE] showed one in three breast cancer cases occur within that age group.

Meanwhile, a poll of 1,500 women of all ages found that two-thirds of over-70s mistakenly thought women were equally likely to get breast cancer regardless of their age, when in fact the risk increases with age.

Ruth Loft, organiser of Blackburn and East Lancs Breast Care Support Group, who has twice recovered from the disease, agreed that elderly women should be more aware of the risks.

But she stopped short of calling for an extension to the national screening programme, saying this would require a ‘massive investment’.

She said: “I am surprised to read that so many women over 70 are not aware that breast cancer increases with age. Personally, I think it is as important to check your breasts regularly and know whether there are any changes, as regular screening by mammogram.”

At present, the breast screening programme in England invites women for screening every three years from age 50 to 70, with this set to be extended to the age of 73 by 2016.

Ruth said: “If I thought I had a problem I would not wait until my three-yearly screening appointment anyway, but seek medical advice.

“That should go for ladies of any age. In any case, I think screening for younger women is important, so that is why ladies of all ages are encouraged to be self-aware and check regularly for changes.”

PHE has launched a new ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign to tell older women ‘don't assume you're past it’.

Dr Yvonne Doyle, the regional director, said: "Research shows that women over 70 have low awareness of breast cancer symptoms, other than a lump. They're also more likely to delay presenting to their GP with breast cancer, which could ultimately affect their chance of survival.”