Debunking Breast Cancer Myths

Cancer Care, Women's Health Steward Health Care

Breast cancer awareness has increased over the past decade with walks for a cure, celebrities speaking out about their experiences and proceeds of pink-ribboned products going to breast cancer research. But even amid a greater level of awareness, rumors and myths about breast cancer continue to circulate.

Jan Rothschild, MD, a Steward Health Care breast surgeon, explains the facts versus myths about breast cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer is only hereditary.
Fact: While family history plays a part, it is not the only risk factor. Most women who get breast cancer don’t have a family history or any known risk factor. Screening therefore, is for everyone. Talk with your health care provider about women and men in your family who have had cancer to determine what screenings are appropriate for you.

Myth: Only women get breast cancer?
Fact: Both men and women can be diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than among women, nearly 2,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in the U.S. in 2017.

Myth: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.
Fact: Internet rumors have been circulating for years linking antiperspirants and deodorants to breast cancer. The claim is that either harmful substances, such as aluminum, in deodorants leach into the skin, raising the risk of cancer, or that they block the body’s ability to release toxins, causing a buildup that ultimately leads to cancer. Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the FDA have found any link between the use of antiperspirant or deodorant to breast cancer.

Myth: Eating fruits and vegetables will cure breast cancer.
Fact: Although eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, it does not cure cancer. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, though, so eating them is still a healthy habit to adopt. What is important here and is a risk factor for breast cancer is obesity. Fruits and vegetables can be part of a balanced, nutritious diet to maintain optimal weight.

Myth: Eating soy causes breast cancer.
Fact: Soy products are low in fat, cholesterol and can be a healthy addition to your diet, but some claim the phytoestrogens contained in soy have an estrogen effect, which can lead to breast cancer. Studies are inconclusive as to whether the amount of phytoestrogens in soy products is high enough to be correlated with breast cancer. Talk to your health care professional to find out whether soy is right for your diet.

Myth: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.
Fact: Hormones can affect your likelihood of getting breast cancer, and birth control pills alter the hormones in a woman’s body. Studies on the types and levels of estrogen and other hormones used in birth control and their influence on cancer have been inconclusive. It seems most likely that current birth control pills, with low levels of estrogen are not a risk factor. Talk to your health care professional to choose a contraceptive that is right for you.

Myth: All I need to do is my monthly breast self-exam and I will be fine.
Fact: While it is good to examine your breasts monthly and feel for lumps and changes, mammograms are an important step in catching breast cancer early. Women age 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram. Women with a history of breast cancer or family history of early breast cancer may need to begin annual screenings sooner.

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