25 Breast Cancer Myths Busted

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Know the difference between breast cancer facts and fiction?

PINK DAY LOGO pink ribbon insertYou have probably seen and heard a lot about breast cancer during the past few weeks as this month of October is Beast Cancer Awareness Month, but as we approach the end of this year’s breast cancer awareness month this is a good time to ask how much of the information you encountered is actually true.

See if you know which of the following statements are true and which are false…

Here’s the real deal on risks, symptoms, and more.

Myth 1: Only women with a family history of breast cancer are at risk.

women-family-history-cancer-400x400Reality: Roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors for the disease. But the family-history risks are these: If a first-degree relative (a parent, sibling, or child) has had or has breast cancer, your risk of developing the disease approximately doubles. Having two first-degree relatives with the disease increases your risk even more.

Myth 2: Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of getting breast cancer

under-wire-bra-cancer-400x400Reality: Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific. The consensus is that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.

Myth 3: Most breast lumps are cancerous.

woman-breast-arm-exam-400x400Reality: Roughly 80% of lumps in women’s breasts are caused by benign (noncancerous) changes, cysts, or other conditions. Doctors encourage women to report any changes at all, however, because catching breast cancer early is so beneficial. Your doctor may recommend a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to determine whether a lump is cancerous.

Myth 4: Exposing a tumor to air during surgery causes cancer to spread.

three-surgeons-room-400x400Reality: Surgery doesn’t cause breast cancer and it doesn’t cause breast cancer to spread, as far as scientists can tell from the research so far.

Your doctor may find out during surgery that your cancer is more widespread than previously thought, however. And some animal studies have shown that removing the primary tumor sometimes enables metastatic cancers to grow, but only temporarily; this has not been demonstrated in humans.

Myth 5: Breast implants can raise your cancer risk.

breast-surgeon-woman-400x400Reality: Women with breast implants are at no greater risk of getting breast cancer, according to research. Standard mammograms don’t always work as well on these women, however, so additional X-rays are sometimes needed to more fully examine breast tissue.

Myth 6: All women have a 1-in-8 chance of getting breast cancer.

thirty-plus-candles-400x400Reality: Your risk increases as you get older. A woman’s chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 233 when she’s in her 30s and rises to 1 in 8 by the time she’s reached 85.

Myth 7: Wearing antiperspirant increases your risk of getting breast cancer.

deodorant-woman-arm-400x400Reality: The American Cancer Society pooh-poohs this rumor, but admits that more research is needed. One small study did stumble on traces of parabens in a tiny sample of breast cancer tumors.

Parabens, used as preservatives in some antiperspirants, have weak estrogen-like properties, but the study in question made no cause-and-effect connection between parabens and breast cancer, nor did it conclusively identify the source of the parabens found in tumors.

Myth 8: Small-breasted women have less chance of getting breast cancer.

small-breast-measurement-400x400Reality: There’s no connection between the size of your breasts and your risk of getting breast cancer. Very large breasts may be harder to examine than small breasts, with clinical breast exams—and even mammograms and MRIs—more difficult to conduct. But all women, regardless of breast size, should commit to routine screenings and checkups.

Myth 9: Breast cancer always comes in the form of a lump.

under-arm-breast-400x400Reality: A lump may indicate breast cancer (or one of many benign breast conditions), but women should also be on the alert for other kinds of changes that may be signs of cancer. These include swelling; skin irritation or dimpling; breast or nipple pain; nipple retraction (turning inward); redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin; or a discharge other than breast milk.

Breast cancer can also spread to underarm lymph nodes and cause swelling there before a tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt. On the other hand, a mammogram may pick up breast cancer that has no outward symptoms at all.

Myth 10: You can’t get breast cancer after a mastectomy.

mastectomy-bandage-400x400Reality: Some women do get breast cancer after a mastectomy, sometimes at the site of the scar. Or the original cancer may have spread. For women at high risk of breast cancer who have their breasts removed as a prophylactic or preventive measure, there’s still a chance, though a small one, that they can get breast cancer. After prophylactic mastectomy a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer is reduced by an average of 90%.

Myth 11: Your father’s family history of breast cancer doesn’t affect your risk as much as your mother’s.
father-history-cancer-400x400Reality: Your father’s family history of breast cancer is just as important as your mother’s in understanding your risk. But to find out about the risk stemming from your father’s side of the family, you need to look primarily at the women; while men do get breast cancer, women are more vulnerable to it. Associated cancers in men (such as early-onset prostate or colon cancer) on either side are also important to factor in when doing a full family-tree risk assessment.

Myth 12: Caffeine causes breast cancer.

drink-coffee-work-above-400x400Reality: No causal connection has been found between drinking caffeine and getting breast cancer; in fact, some research suggests that caffeine may actually lower your risk. So far it’s inconclusive whether breast soreness may be linked to caffeine.

Myth 13: If you’re at risk for breast cancer, there’s little you can do but watch for the signs.

couple-exercise-beach-400x400Reality: There’s a lot that women can do to lower their risk, including losing weight if they’re obese, getting regular exercise, lowering or eliminating alcohol consumption, being rigorous about examining their own breasts, and having regular clinical exams and mammograms. Quitting smoking wouldn’t hurt either.

Some high-risk women also choose to have a prophylactic mastectomy to decrease their risk by roughly 90%. They can take other proactive steps such as having regular MRIs, exploring chemoprevention with treatments such as tamoxifen, and participating in clinical trials.

Myth 14: Women with lumpy breasts (also known as fibrocystic breast changes) have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

dense-breast-mamo-400x400Reality: In the past, women with lumpy, dense, or fibrocystic breasts were believed to be at higher risk of getting breast cancer, but there doesn’t appear to be a connection after all. However, when you have lumpy breasts, it it can be trickier to differentiate normal tissue from cancerous tissue, so you may experience false alarms. Women with fibrocystic breasts often follow up their mammograms with an ultrasound.

Myth 15: Annual mammograms expose you to so much radiation that they increase your risk of cancer.

mammogram-machine-400x400Reality: While it’s true that radiation is used in mammography, the amount is so small that any associated risks are tiny when compared to the huge preventive benefits reaped from the test. Mammograms can detect lumps well before they can be felt or otherwise noticed, and the earlier that lumps are caught, the better one’s chances for survival. The American Cancer Society recommends that women age 40 and older receive a screening mammogram every one to two years.

Myth 16: Needle biopsies can disturb cancer cells and cause them to spread to other parts of the body.

needle-biopsy-breast-400x400Reality: There’s no conclusive evidence for this claim. Despite some previous concerns, a 2004 study found no increased spread of cancer among patients undergoing needle biopsies compared to those who did not have the procedure.

Myth 17: After heart disease, breast cancer is the nation’s leading killer of women.

breast-cancer-aware-ribbon-400x400Reality: Breast cancer kills roughly 40,000 women a year in the United States but stroke (96,000 deaths), lung cancer (71,000), and chronic lower respiratory disease (67,000) are each responsible for more deaths annually.

Myth 18: If your mammography report is negative, there is nothing else to worry about.

mammogram-ray-happy-400x400Reality: Despite their importance for breast cancer screening and diagnosis, mammograms fail to detect around 10% to 20% of breast cancers. This is why clinical breast exams and, to some extent, breast self-exams are crucial pieces of the screening process.

Myth 19: Hair straighteners cause breast cancer in African-American women.

african-hair-straight-400x400Reality: A large 2007 study funded by the National Cancer Institute found no increase in breast cancer risk due to the use of hair straighteners or relaxers. Study participants included African-American women who had used straighteners seven or more times a year for 20 years or longer.

Myth 20: Removing the entire breast gives you a better chance of surviving cancer than having a lumpectomy with radiation therapy.

hospital-woman-surgeon-bed-400x400Reality: Survival rates are about the same for women who have mastectomies and for women who choose the breast-conserving option of removing only part of the breast and following the surgery with radiation treatments. However, there are some cases—such as with extensive DCIS disease, the presence of BRCA gene mutations, or particularly large tumors—when lumpectomy and radiation may not be an appropriate treatment option.

Myth 21: Overweight women have the same breast cancer risk as other women.

feel-gw-opener-400x400Reality: Being overweight or obese does increase your breast cancer risk—especially if you’re past menopause and/or you gained the weight later in life.

Myth 22: Fertility treatments increase the risk of getting breast cancer.

fertility-treat-calendar-400x400Reality: Given estrogen’s connection to breast cancer, fertility treatments have come under suspicion. But several studies have found that prospective moms are likely to have no higher risk of breast cancer. As yet, no large, long-term, randomized studies have eliminated this concern entirely; it merits more research to find a definite answer.

Myth 23: Living near power lines can cause breast cancer.

electrical-wires-home-400x400Reality: A 2003 study aimed at explaining what appeared to be a high incidence of breast cancer in certain counties on Long Island, N.Y., found no link between the disease and electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines. An earlier study conducted in the Seattle area yielded a similar conclusion. Research into potential environmental risk factors is ongoing.

Myth 24: Having an abortion raises your risk of getting breast cancer.

woman-mid-section-400x400Reality: Because abortion is believed to disrupt hormone cycles during pregnancy and breast cancer is linked to hormone levels, numerous studies have investigated a causal link—but found no conclusive evidence for one.

Myth 25: Breast cancer is preventable.

african-patient-doc-bc-400x400Reality: Alas, no. Although it is possible to identify risk factors (such as family history and inherited gene mutations) and make lifestyle changes that can lower your risk (reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, losing weight, getting regular exercise and screenings, and quitting smoking), roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors, meaning that the disease occurs largely by chance and according to as-yet-unexplained factors.

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Comments

  1. I am a breast cancer researcher, medical anthropologist, and co-author of the book, Dressed To Kill: the Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras.

    This article is filled with misinformation, and is the same one going around the Internet with different doctor’s names. All same the same thing and comes from Health.com, which is paid to publish this misinformation. They refuse to correct this article.

    The truth is that wearing tight bras daily is the leading cause of breast cancer, cysts, and pain. Here are the facts. (Keep in mind that bras are big business, and so is cancer detection and treatment. Nobody makes money ending this disease by having women change their bra wearing habits.).

    This false article also says breast cancer is not preventable because they ignore the bra/cancer link. This is the link that explains the 70% of cancer cases with no known cause, since they are refusing to admit this cause.

    STUDIES THAT SUPPORT THE BRA/CANCER LINK:,

    1. 1991 Harvard study (CC Hsieh, D Trichopoulos (1991). Breast size, handedness and breast cancer risk. European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology 27(2):131-135.). This study found that, “Premenopausal women who do not wear bras had half the risk of breast cancer compared with bra users…”

    2. 1991-93 U.S. Bra and Breast Cancer Study by Singer and Grismaijer, published in Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras (Avery/Penguin Putnam, 1995; ISCD Press, 2005). Found that bra-free women have about the same incidence of breast cancer as men. 24/7 bra wearing increases incidence over 100 times that of a bra-free woman.

    3. Singer and Grismaijer did a follow-up study in Fiji, published in Get It Off! (ISCD Press, 2000). Found 24 case histories of breast cancer in a culture where half the women are bra-free. The women getting breast cancer were all wearing bras. Given women with the same genetics and diet and living in the same village, the ones getting breast disease were the ones wearing bras for work.

    4. A 2009 Chinese study (Zhang AQ, Xia JH, Wang Q, Li WP, Xu J, Chen ZY, Yang JM (2009). [Risk factors of breast cancer in women in Guangdong and the countermeasures]. In Chinese. Nan Fang Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao. 2009 Jul;29(7):1451-3.) found that NOT sleeping in a bra was protective against breast cancer, lowering the risk 60%.

    5. 2011 a study was published, in Spanish, confirming that bras are causing breast disease and cancer. http://www.portalesmedicos.com/publicaciones/articles/3691/1/Patologias-mamarias-generadas-por-el-uso-sostenido-y-seleccion-incorrecta-del-brassier-en-pacientes-que-acuden-a-la-consulta-de-mastologia- It found that underwired and push-up bras are the most harmful, but any bra that leaves red marks or indentations may cause disease.

    STUDIES THAT REFUTE THE BRA/CANCER LINK:

    none

    REASON GIVEN WHY THE BRA/CANCER LINK IS A “MYTH” AND HAS BEEN “DEBUNKED” AS “UNSCIENTIFIC”

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/BreastCancerCenter/25-breast-cancer-myths-busted/story?id=20435163#2

    Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific. The consensus is that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.

    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/news-archive/archive-wednesday/25-breast-cancer-myths-busted

    Reality: Claims that underwire bras compress the lymphatic system of the breast, causing toxins to accumulate and cause breast cancer, have been widely debunked as unscientific. The consensus is that neither the type of bra you wear nor the tightness of your underwear or other clothing has any connection to breast cancer risk.

    PHYSICIANS SUPPORT OF THE BRA/CANCER LINK

    http://www.healthy.net/scr/article.aspx?Id=533The Prevention And Complementary Treatment Of Breast Cancer

    © Michael Schachter MD, FACAM

    “Over 85 percent of the lymph fluid flowing from the breast drains to the armpit lymph nodes. Most of the rest drains to the nodes along the breast bone. Bras and other external tight clothing can impede flow.

    The nature of the bra, the tightness, and the length of time worn, will all influence the degree of blockage of lymphatic drainage. Thus, wearing a bra might contribute to the development of breast cancer as a result of cutting off lymphatic drainage, so that toxic chemicals are trapped in the breast.”

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/05/19/Can-Wearing-Your-Bra-Cause-Cancer.aspx

    Many physicians and researchers now agree that wearing a tight fitting bra can cut off lymph drainage, which can contribute to the development of breast cancer,[1] as your body will be less able to excrete all the toxins you’re exposed to on a daily basis. Aluminum from antiperspirants, for example, is one potentially dangerous source of toxins that can accumulate if your lymph drainage is impaired.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/05/21/breast-cancer-young-women.aspx

    Avoid wearing underwire bras. There is a good deal of data that metal underwire bras can heighten your breast cancer risk.

    http://www.keep-a-breast.org/blog/roadrunner-supports-our-girls/

    According to Dr. Mandy, who is our naturopathic expert, 85% of the lymphatic fluid must drain its waste around the armpit area, while 15% drains along the breast bone. Where does your bra usually wrap around your body? The bra seems to obstruct the very place that needs to be unobstructed! Studies have shown that thetightness of a bra can cut off the lymphatic system from draining properly. This means that your bra could be obstructing your body’s natural flow which can also increase your risks for cancer.

    http://drcherylkasdorf.com/2013/09/30/bowenwork-celebrates-breast-health/

    Tight bras, poor food choices, and lack of exercise can hamper lymphatic removal of fluids from the breast. That can result in breast tenderness and is a risk factor for breast disease including cancer.

    http://www.drvaughan.com/2013/09/bumps-and-breasts-and-bras-oh-my.html

    Wearing a bra puts pressure on and around the breasts and restricts lymphatic flow. Consider this: lightly resting one finger on your arm will create about 5mm of mercury pressure in that location, which is enough to stop lymphatic flow. The restriction of lymphatic flow that tight bra straps have around the breasts, shoulders and back is much more significant…. take off that bra! At the very least, wear it less than 12 hours a day. Ideally, though, avoid wearing it whenever possible. Visit BraFree.org for tips on how to easily and discreetly make the transition.

    http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/beauty-style/7-health-dangers-hiding-your-closet/slide/4

    According to Ohio-based doctor Jennifer Shine Dyer, “tight bras can reduce the lymphatic flow to the breasts thus creating an environment with more ‘cellular waste and toxins’ that should have been cleared by the lymphatic system.”

    http://www.lingerieinsight.com/article-4099-thermovision-is-key-to-bra-manufacturing-study/

    Wearing a bra that is too tight can cause pressure, which may lead to dangerous health problems, like lymphatic drainage disorders, edema and or swollen lymph nodes, according to Corin.

    http://arizonaadvancedmedicine.com/are-you-dressed-to-kill-the-link-between-breast-cancer-and-bras/

    http://breastnest.com/breastnest.php

    Dr. Oz’s father-in-law, Dr. Gerald Lemole states, “Women who wear bras don’t have normal movement in their breast tissue. As a result, their lymphatics slow, and toxins stay in the tissue.”

    I hope this information helps. For more, see my website http://www.KillerCulture.com.

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