10 Biggest Myths About Breast Cancer

What do you know about the risk of getting breast cancer? Is it actually true? Here are several popular myths—and the facts. Make smart choices to reduce your risk.

1
Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer

woman shopping for deodorant
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There is no research that proves the use of antiperspirants causes breast cancer. Some medical studies have been done on tissue samples from breast cancer patients and, in some cases, the chemical substance parabens were found in both antiperspirants and in some tumors. But, there is no clear link between antiperspirants and the start of breast cancer. Don't toss out your deodorant yet!

2
If Breast Cancer Isn't in My Family, I Can't Get It

Anyone with breast tissue—male or female—is at risk for breast cancer. The risk is higher for women. And add in increasing age to having breast tissue, and your risk also increases. If blood relatives have had breast cancer, then you have a bit higher risk than someone with no history of the disease in their family. Check with your doctor and review your family health history to be on the safe side.

3
A Diagnosis of Breast Cancer Is a Death Sentence

Compared to 20 and 25 years ago, breast cancer is more accurately detected and treated at an early stage before it spreads. Now, 80 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and who do not have any metastasis (spread of cancer) will survive at least five years beyond their diagnosis—and many live even longer than that. Even if cancer has spread, new treatments and therapies have improved survival rates and quality of life. Remember, early detection is essential.

4
Only Older Women Get Breast Cancer

The risk of getting breast cancer does rise with growing older, but young women—birth to 39 years old—can get breast cancer. Between the ages of 40 to 59, the risk increases to four percent. Between the ages of 60 to 79, the risk is seven percent. If you live to be 90 years old, your overall lifetime risk is 14.3 percent. Develop a healthy lifestyle today and reduce your risk. Your body is worth the extra work it takes to enjoy a healthy life.

5
Birth Control Pills Cause Breast Cancer

In the past, birth control pills used a higher dose of hormones to reduce the possibility of conception, but that hormone dose created only a slightly higher risk. Today's birth control pills do contain the hormones estrogen and progesterone, but these doses are lower than the old pills. And, these lower doses of hormones are not linked to higher risks of breast cancer. Consult with your doctor or nurse practitioner for their professional opinion on your use of birth control pills.

6
A High-Fat Diet Causes Breast Cancer

Despite several medical studies on this issue, it can not be proved that a diet high in fat will cause breast cancer. Excess body weight in the form of fat results in higher production of estrogen, on top of that which your ovaries already produce. That extra estrogen may fuel some types of breast tumors. Generally, a diet that is low in saturated fats is good for your heart health (lower cholesterol) as well as your breast health (normal estrogen levels.)

7
Breast Cancer Is in My Family and I Can't Avoid Getting It

You are a unique person and your body is made up of a combination of inherited qualities. Even if you are tested for breast cancer genes, you can still take control of several aspects of your overall health. A healthy diet, not smoking, very little alcohol, and regular exercise can all add up to a lower risk for you. Here are 10 risk-reduction strategies to get started on.

8
Having Kids and Breastfeeding Is Guaranteed Protection

While it is true that having at least two pregnancies before you're 30 and breastfeeding your babies can lower your risk of getting breast cancer, it is not a guarantee of protection. However, to further lower your risk, add regular exercise and a healthy diet, don't smoke, and drink very little alcohol. Get regular screenings and annual checkups with your doctor to make sure that you have a baseline on all your critical health tests. You and your children are worth the effort!

9
Bras Cause Breast Cancer

This myth has been around at least since 1995, when Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer wrote the book Dressed to Kill. During her pregnancy, Soma developed a breast lump. Her lump was never biopsied and never diagnosed, but the couple developed a simple treatment—she stopped wearing her braThe Singer-Grismaijers then conducted a barely scientific survey based on their own experience and told the world that bras cause breast cancer. This conveniently ignores historical examples of the pre-bra era, during which queens in ancient Egypt and Rembrandt's model for Bathsheba, as well as pioneer women in early America, suffered from breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, there are no scientifically valid studies which show that wearing any type of clothing, including bras, causes breast cancer.

10
Surgery Spreads Breast Cancer

The roots of this myth seem to come from the days when surgeons didn't know as much about germ theory, and surgical suites were not exactly hygienic. Three hundred years ago, very few patients lived long after surgery for breast cancer, but it is unlikely that surgery itself caused cancer to spread. Infections were common, excess blood loss was hard to control, and modern imaging techniques were unavailable. It is these situations that may have caused death after breast surgery. In the past, metastasis could not have been properly detected, so if cancer had spread before the surgery, a doctor could not combat it effectively. (Cancer spreads itself by rapid cell division, diverting the body's blood and nutrients to feed the tumor, and by traveling through the blood and lymph systems.)

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