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13 "Facts" About Breast Cancer That Are Just Plain Untrue

By KellyRose McAleer - November 10, 2014

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Breast cancer has been thrust into the national spotlight recently, as more women and organizations are stepping forward to raise awareness on the disease. But as always, the more people talk about an issue, the easier it is to get inaccurate information. Rumors and theories spread like wildfire, leading to an epidemic of misinformation. Can wearing an underwire bra give you cancer? Does drinking caffeine? We have assembled and debunked 13 common misconceptions about breast cancer to ease your worries.

Myth: Most breast lumps are cancerous


Doctors want to catch any lumps early on to prevent the breast cancer from spreading, but 80% of lumps in women’s breasts are benign, or noncancerous. Those noncancerous lumps can be cysts or other conditions. Your doctor will order a mammogram, ultrasound, or biopsy to analyze the lump and find out whether or not it is cancer.

Myth: Wearing a bra, underwire or not, causes breast cancer.


12 years ago a book was published claiming that bra straps make it difficult for the body to rid the breasts of toxins, because they impede drainage and circulation. Others have claimed that underwire bras compress the breast’s lymphatic system, leading to cancer when the toxins collect. Neither of these theories are scientifically accurate. The type of bra you wear has no bearing on whether or not you get cancer, as proven in September 2014. Lu Chen, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, affirmed that most breast cancer is found in the armpit area so “biologically it’s not possible” for your bras to give you cancer.

Myth: Caffeine can cause breast cancer


No evidence to that! There has been no research to support that caffeine causes breast cancer, but some has suggested that it may instead lower your risk. So far there is not more information than that.

Myth: Breast cancer is always found through a lump.


A lump in the breast could be benign or cancerous, but they are not the only indicator of cancer. If you observe signs like swelling, nipple retraction or pain, skin dimpling, redness, or a strange discharge, you should contact your doctor immediately. Even before a tumor is large enough to be felt you may notice swelling in your lymph nodes from the cancer. But routine screenings are still important for the cases of breast cancer that show no symptoms.

Myth: You’re only at risk of breast cancer if it runs in your family.


While having a family member with breast cancer can increase your chances of developing the disease, 70% of women with breast cancer had no identifiable risk factors. Still, if you have two first-degree relatives (parent, child, or sibling) with the disease, your risk is approximately doubled and you should make sure you are making appointments for your annual mammogram.

Myth: Wearing deodorant causes breast cancer.


The false theory here is that the parabens in antiperspirant are absorbed through the skin of your underarm and affect circulation and toxins, or that the aluminum in deodorants affects estrogen levels which can lead to developing breast cancer. Actually, there is just no scientific evidence to support these half-baked theories. Although the American Cancer Society dismisses this rumor, they do admit more research would be beneficial. Still, one small study made found no cause-and-effect connection. Please, keep using deodorant.

Myth: The radiation from a mammogram can cause breast cancer.


Although some people want to avoid mammograms for fear that it emits harmful radiation on the breast, the amount of radiation from the procedure is minimal. For the average woman, the benefits of finding cancer outweigh the very little risk of causing cancer. But there are some women with the BRACA gene, which is believed to cause susceptibility to breast cancer. Because they are more likely to develop the disease, they are given mammograms younger and as a result are exposed to radiation longer. Still, the benefits to catching breast cancer early outweigh the risks.

Myth: Breast implants can raise the risk of cancer.


According to research, no. While women with breast implants do not develop a greater risk, it is more difficult for the standard mammogram to work as well. If that happens, additional x-rays may be necessary for a better look to examine the breast tissue, that’s all.

Myth: Women with small breasts are less likely to develop breast cancer.


Nope. Women of all breast sizes need to make their routine check-ups, because there is no causation or correlation with breast size and cancer. If you’re concerned, look at your age instead: a woman in her 30’s has a 1 in 233 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and those odds increase as you get older. By the time you’re 85, the odds are 1 in 8.

Myth: Weight does not affect your risk for breast cancer.


The most common type of cancer is postmenopausal breast cancer, and your risk for that is raised when you gain weight in adulthood. According to the Susan G. Komen organization, postmenopausal women who are classified as “overweight” increase their risk of breast cancer by 30-60%/. On the other hand, if you were heavy as a child and an adult, your risk is slightly lower.

Myth: Carrying your cell phone in your bra causes cancer


Using your bra as a substitute purse to hold your phone, lipstick, and some cash while going out is a common practice among women. So the question could be valid, except that there’s no basis for the inquiry. If research was found that said cell phones cause cancer, we would all have stopped using them by now. There is no evidence that cell phones cause cancer but if you’re still worried, just don’t keep your phone in your bra.

Myth: After a mastectomy, you can’t get breast cancer


Unfortunately, some women do. There is still a small chance that you can get breast cancer again, or the original cancer may have spread. However, after a prophylactic mastectomy your risk for developing it is reduced by about 90%.

Myth: Women at risk for breast cancer are helpless to reduce their risk.


Even when you’re at risk, there are ways for you to be proactive and lower that risk. Regular exercise helps, especially if for women who are obese – losing weight is a huge help. Be rigorous in your self-examinations, reduce or eradicate your smoking and alcohol consumption, and make sure you make regular mammogram appointments. There are also high-risk women’s clinics where you can find experts who can assess your situation and discuss your options going forward.