Turkey on the move to reduce breast cancer

Riccardo Masetti

Second annual "Walking for the Cure" event, 11 November 2012, Istanbul

Thousands of people walked across the Bosporus Bridge in Istanbul on 11 November 2012 as part of the second annual "Walking for the Cure" for breast cancer event that was held in conjunction with the annual Eurasian marathon, to promote awareness and encourage routine screening for early detection of breast cancer.

The event was organized jointly by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Family and Social Policy, and Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality with support from WHO/Europe.

Esra Erdoğan, daughter of Turkey's Prime Minister, and Dr Sare Davutoğlu, wife of Turkey's Minister of Foreign Affairs, were among several high-profile participants who joined the throng of thousands of "Women in Pink" to serve as "ambassadors of early detection". 

"Prevention is the main strategy in cancer control," said Professor Recep Akdağ, Minister of Health. "Turkey has already started the serious fight against smoking and obesity, two main causes of cancer in the country. Early detection and treatment are crucial in cancer control. We have established and rolled out Cancer Early Detection, Screening and Training Centres (KETEM), for implementing screening programmes. Following from the WHO recommendation, KETEMs provide free mammograms to women aged 50 and above every two years."

Bringing together professional and amateur athletes as well as families, schools and businesses, the event combined interest in sport with social commitment. Participants celebrated breast cancer survivors and generated a positive message for all women, thereby helping to reduce the fear that cancer still generates in the population and encouraging women to help prevent and control the disease.

Expert meeting

Worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequent and deadly type of cancer observed in women.

The walking event was preceded by a scientific meeting, led by Dr Murat Gultekin, Head of the Cancer Control Department of the Ministry of Health. During the meeting Turkish high-level experts on breast cancer discussed the benefits of and controversial issues related to breast cancer screening. Professor David Cameron (member of the independent panel chaired by Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity, that reviewed United Kingdom breast cancer screening in the October 2012 'Lancet') and Professor Riccardo Masetti (Director of the Breast Cancer Unit, Catholic University of Rome, member of the Global Breast Cancer Initiative and President of Susan G. Komen Italia) also participated in the meeting and discussion.

"Physical activity plays a strong role in reducing the incidence of certain cancers, among which breast cancer, and it is something almost everyone can do as part of their daily lives. We hope that by joining the 'Walking for the Cure' annual breast cancer event, the Turkish public will also help us spread the word that women should not be afraid to have routine clinical breast examinations and treatment if needed, as early detection improves chances for successful treatment and life expectancy," said Dr Maria Cristina Profili, WHO Representative in Turkey.