Pop singer Kylie Minogue's breast cancer diagnosis triggered a surge in women being screened for the disease, according to a new study.
But the University of Melbourne study found the increase in testing of women at low risk of developing the cancer did more harm than good, by lowering the capacity of the system to deal with high-risk cases.
The study found use of mammography and breast ultrasound procedures soared by more than 30 per cent in women aged 25 to 44, in the six months following Minogue's diagnosis.
There was also a sharp rise in women aged 25 to 34 who had breast biopsies but the surge did not lead to the detection of more cases of breast cancer.
The study, published this week in the International Journal of Epidemiology, used Medicare data to examine the impact of the publicity surrounding the singer's illness on breast imaging, biopsies and operations to remove breast tumours.
Study leader Margaret Kelaher, of the university's Melbourne School of Population Health, said the results showed women at low risk had been overusing imaging services.
"Raising women's awareness of the need to get screened is a generally good thing," she said.
"But these findings suggest that thousands of additional imaging procedures and biopsies did not improve breast cancer detection among young women.
"It appears there has been a situation where publicity has led to many low-risk women using - and probably overusing - screening services."
The researchers suggested the influx of low-risk women into screening services may have damaging effects by reducing the capacity to deal with higher-risk women.
Dr Kelaher said that although Minogue had been a great ambassador, the message had to be better managed between celebrities' PR teams and public health agencies.
Royal Melbourne Hospital consultant surgeon Julie Miller said there was no need for routine screening of women under 40 who did not have symptoms or a strong family history of breast cancer.