ASA slams breast cancer device claims


A torch device that claims to help detect breast cancer has been slammed as 'misleading' and 'irresponsible' by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The watchdog has ordered that advertising claims for the £86 Breastlight device, which is sold in Boots and online, must be removed.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%
Breast cancer charities are urging women not to buy the product because there is no evidence to back up its claims of early detection of the disease.

The torch-like device is used by shining it over the breast and surrounding area in a darkened room. Users are advised to visit their GP if they spot any abnormalities, which appear as very dark spots or shadows.

The manufacturers PWB Health claim to have carried out trials on 300 women showing the torch successfully detected cancers in two thirds of cases. They also say that 80% who have used it felt 'more confident' afterwards.

But today the ASA ordered the manufacturers to change the website and remove such claims.

No evidence
In a statement, the watchdog ruled: "The ad must not appear in its current form. We told PWB Health to hold robust evidence before making claims for early detection."

PWB Health claim that the device aids early detection by increasing breast awareness, yet the ASA and breast cancer charities fear that women could view the device as substitute for thorough breast cancer screening through a GP consultation and X-ray mammography.

Eluned Hughes, public health manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "It is so important that women are not misled when it comes to checking their breasts and there is no evidence to suggest that the torch-like light can detect early signs of breast cancer.

"We would like to reassure women that there is no need to spend money on products like these. The best way for women to be breast aware is to know their own breasts, to touch and look for changes and to check anything unusual with their GP."

Breast cancer aware
Nearly 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK, and just over 12,000 people die from the disease in the UK every year.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and women of all ages are advised to start a routine to regularly check their breasts and familiarise themselves with what to look and feel for.

It is important to speak to your GP about any changes or abnormalities straightaway and take advantage of breast cancer screening when offered in your local area.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer is providing a free Touch, Look, Check guide which informs women about what to look out for when checking their breasts – text TLC to 84424 to get your free guide.

Advertising's most ageist ads
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ASA slams breast cancer device claims

It's not clear how old the Italian Mediterranean woman is at the helm of her elderly convertible. But clearly by using an olive-oil based spread on her ciabatta, she can still drive at a good clip.

The ageism is more subtle here. Imagine, an older lady still able to drive quickly and competently! And actually enjoying the experience. Sure, it's not offensive as some ageist ads, but it's a tad patronising. Welcome to ad-land.

In the 1930s, anyone more than 40 was definitely middle aged and in need of Phyllosan. Fortifies the over 40s was one of the taglines. Phyllosan ads had the job of informing consumers their pills would restore "digestive and metabolic tone strengthening the nerves and energy."

There's an implied sense of threat here too. The grim-faced doctor won't have much time with a 40-year old male who hesitates to buy this "life-changing" medicament. Be responsible; you're officially middle aged. Buckle down.

Here's another ageist piece of marketing. The hugely cash-generative insurance industry makes a lot of its money out of our own insecurities - and this ad is true to type.

But a few wrinkles are part of ageing. It's not necessarily about being worried. How about laughter lines? Not a pitch that wouldn't have gone down well in a client planning meeting, though given the financial crisis we've been through, some lightening up would have been a useful corrective.

However dreary becoming 40-plus might be, imagine how dire it was to be female and 50. Here, Mrs Georgina Weldon is truly verging on old maid-dom. However thanks to Pears soap, the ad claims her skin is like a 17-year-old.

How many 17-year-olds dressed like that, even in the late 19th century? Mrs Georgina Weldon was, in fact a "real life" case study. She was also a well-known litigant and fighter for female conjugal rights. A clever women also known as 'Portia of the Law Courts'.

But Georgina, that hat...

Now roll forward 120 years to this Dove soap (made by Unilever) ad; it caused a lot of chatter in the US, with the authorities even part-banning the ad. The woman here is not caked in make-up or soap. Although there's probably some touching up done, it's remarkably natural-looking.

Message: it's still okay and attractive to seek older people with no clothes. Too radical for some shocked Americans, though.

Yet some older women - even late middle age, even older - remain beautiful, vigorous and attractive, as in this Age Concern ad. But though you can see Age Concern's point, many old people look old because they are old. Not all older women would want to wear just a black satin bra on the front page of a newspaper.

Does it make us think about age or ageism in a different way? Or is it more she looks good considering she's 60-odd? Age Concern's grey boob.

Or how about this Lucozade ad aimed at older men? You might be pushing 80 but you can still pull if you drink sugar-loaded Lucozade. Pretty crude. This ad apparently was originally shot with an older woman flanked by two semi-naked males.

However the editor of FHM didn't think his mag would appreciate the grey-haired older woman - and asked her to be replaced by a man. Ageist and sexist!

This Spar ad is just awful, isn't it? The husband has lost his wine gums (gums). The wife can't find her ball of wool. But a quick trip - or hobble - to Spar and back and everything is okay. Note husband's gummy smile and wife's dowdy get-up.

The first is a neat little bit of clever reverse ageism from Elizabeth Arden. The woman in the picture is not just married (well, divorced) but dating a man younger than her son. She's independent, confident and apparently in control.

And confident enough to admit the current romantic arrangements.
You could criticise it for reviving the cliche of the fast older woman more interested in sex or shock value. A positive image? Sort of. And some way from the overweight bespectacled country bumpkin we started with.

Lastly, an older, grey-haired woman happy in her own skin complete with studded belt, (hand?) knitted top and punk-style tartan trousers. Let's hope Samsung sold a ton more washing machines through this ad. A confident, modern, energetic older woman. A rare find.


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