Thousands of women have been ‘misled’ into buying a torch which claims to detect breast cancer, the advertising watchdog has ruled. The £86 Breastlight device – which is sold online and in Boots – claims to help women spot the first signs of tumours. More than 20,000 of the torches have been sold worldwide since they were launched in 2006. But in a ruling published today, the Advertising Standards Authority said the website which advertises and sells the devices is ‘misleading’ and ‘irresponsible’. Cancer charities are also concerned that women are using the torches as a ‘substitute’ for breast screening and subsequently getting ‘false reassurance’. On the product’s website, manufacturers PWB Health describe the torch as an ‘earlier breast cancer screening device’.
Women are advised to use the device in a darkened room and shine the red light of the torch on their breasts which enables them to see under the skin.
Veins and blood vessels appear as dark lines and any tumours may show up as shadows.
The manufacturers 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 per cent who have used it felt ‘more confident’ afterwards. But the ASA has today ordered the manufacturers to change the website and remove such claims.
Dr Claire Knight, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘There is no clear evidence to show this sort of home testing kit could reliably detect breast cancer, so we welcome the decision to ban this advertisement.
‘There’s a danger that using the device could leave some women with increased levels of anxiety and others with false reassurance.’ Eluned Hughes, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘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.’
And a spokesman for Breast Cancer Care said: ‘Breastlight is not a substitute for the breast screening programme or general breast awareness.
‘The most effective tool for detecting breast cancer is mammography.’
It is not known how many of the devices have been sold in the UK but they are stocked by Boots, online store Amazon and can also be bought via the product website.
A spokesman for PWB Health declined to comment.