When it comes to causes of breast cancer, the internet it a minefield of misinformation and click-bait headlines, enough to make you think that every decision you make in life will increase your risk of developing the disease.
The reality, however, is far less scary, with most stories lacking scientific evidence to validate their claims. To help you navigate the misinformation, we’ve pulled together some of the biggest breast cancer myths circling the internet:
- Wearing deodorant causes breast cancer
Using deodorant does not cause breast cancer.
Many deodorants are created using aluminium-based ingredients. This ingredient helps create a block in the sweat duct, temporarily stopping your skin from being able to release sweat out of the skin. Some claims have been made that this can create hormonal changes in the body, increasing the risk of cancer. However, there is currently no substantial evidence that proves this to be true.
- Milk causes breast cancer
You might have seen a significant amount of talk about milk causing breast cancer on the internet lately. One headline was even warning people that milk could increase your risk by up to 50 percent.
The idea was born from recent research done at the Loma Linda University in California, where researchers were investigating an association between soy and dairy, and breast cancer risk. They did notice a greater risk of breast cancer associated with dairy milk intake; however this was only within a community of Seventh-day Adventist church members living in the US and Canada.
- Wearing a bra can cause breast cancer
In 1995, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer published a book called ‘Dressed to Kill’ which proposed a link between bras and breast cancer. They claimed that because bras are tight on the breast, they would impact the proper function of the lymphatic system.
However, medicine and science has generally not supported their claims and most substantial research indicates that there is no risk to wearing a bra. On the flipside, there is also no evidence that not wearing a bra decreases your risk of breast cancer.
- Having a high-risk gene means that I will definitely end up with cancer
Gene mutations can lead to abnormal cell growth and the chance that you will develop cancer is significantly higher. Just because you have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation, for example, doesn’t mean that you will definitely be diagnosed with breast and/or ovarian cancer. It simply means that the likelihood of this occurring is much higher than if you didn’t carry a gene mutation.
- Men can’t get breast cancer
Men can still get breast cancer, and men who carry a BRCA genetic mutation are at a higher risk for breast cancer. Overall, male breast cancer is much less common when compared with other types of cancers, but it is important for men to be aware that they can develop it.
The symptoms for breast cancer in men are similar to breast cancer in women, including changes to the skin on the breast, changes to the nipple area, a lump in the breast tissue or nipple discharge.
- It won’t happen to me, because I’m young
The older you get, the more your risk of breast cancer increases. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not possible for you to develop breast cancer when you’re young, especially if you carry a genetic mutation that puts you at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
We encourage all women to know their risk, as finding out when you’re young can be the key to preventing breast cancer from ever occurring.
- Keeping a mobile phone close to your chest will cause breast cancer
Ever since mobile phones have come into existence, there have been talks of them causing cancer. This has been a particularly active conversation when it comes to brain cancer, as the devices are used closest to this part of the body. In 2010, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that mobile phones “did not raise the risk of brain cancer, except for a possible slight increase in tumours among the most intensive users.”
However, current research indicates that there is little to no risk when it comes to cancer and mobile phones – including breast cancer.
- If I don’t have a lump, I can’t have breast cancer
Sometimes, men and women who have breast cancer don’t find a lump at all. This can make it more difficult to get an early diagnosis, as patients are less likely to seek immediate medical help. This means it’s important to know the other symptoms of breast cancer and be vigilant when it comes to recognising changes in your own body.
- You can’t get breast cancer if you breast-feed.
Research shows that breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing breast cancer. Breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones such as oestrogen, which can increase breast cancer risk. But it doesn’t eliminate the possibility that you will ever develop breast cancer.
- There’s nothing that I can do to decrease my risk
There are definitely some ways that you can decrease your personal risk of developing breast cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy level of alcohol consumption, not smoking and limiting exposure to tobacco smoke and maintaining an active lifestyle.
If you know that you are at a high risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer due to a genetic mutation, there are risk reducing actions that you can take, which includes screening, risk reducing surgery and medication.
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