Nearly one in 10 women say they have never checked their breasts for changes, potentially missing symptom of breast cancer, with a quarter of women not confident they could spot signs of the disease.
A poll of more than 2,000 UK women and men by beauty brand Avon also found that only 34% of women had checked their breasts in the last month, and 17% said they had last checked more than five months ago, increasing to 21% for 16-34-year-olds.
Almost 30% of younger men did not think they could get breast cancer, while 65% of UK men had never self-checked, Avon added.
Of the women who did not check their breasts for changes at least monthly, more than half (57%) said this was because simply they forgot to do so, while one in five (20%) admitted they did not know what to check for, with the highest percentage coming from 25-34-year-olds (32%).
Nearly a third (30%) of 16-24-year-olds who had not checked recently said they were too embarrassed to ask how to check, as they felt it was something they should know.
Nearly two in five (19%) women had never been taught how to check their breasts. Nearly a third (31%) of women who did check their breasts said they learnt how to do it by watching TV, 29% via a medical professional and 18% by researching it online.
The research has been published ahead of Breast Cancer Awareness Month next month (October).
Worryingly, the Avon survey found significant ignorance about the disease among men, despite breast cancer being something that both men and women can get.
Although nearly three quarters (72%) of the men polled were aware they are susceptible to the disease, 16% were unaware and 12% were unsure.
This was most apparent among the younger generations, with nearly 30% of 16-24-year-old men believing it was not possible for men to develop breast cancer and almost one in five of 25-34-year-olds.
Nearly two-thirds of men (65%) admitted they do not check themselves for breast cancer symptoms.
Of those who do not self-check, just over one in 10 said it is because they believed men could not get breast cancer. Just under three in ten (29%) said this was because they did not know what to look out for, and three in ten (30%) did not know how to check or had never been taught. More than seven in ten (70%) of men agreed there should be more awareness around breast cancer in men.
While 28% of all those polled, men and women, said they had consulted their GP about breast checking or any concerns they might have, nearly a quarter of women (23%) had not discussed it with anyone.
Just over one in five also admitted they did not feel comfortable discussing breast cancer concerns with their family or friends. For men, nearly half (48%) had never discussed breast cancer with anyone.
Angela Cretu, CEO at Avon, said of the findings: “Our latest research suggests there is still more work to do when it comes to opening up the conversation about breast health and not enough people are checking their chest regularly.”
Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence, NHS Doctor, added: “Early detection of breast cancer is crucial, particularly as research shows that 23% of breast cancer cases in the UK are preventable.”