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Facts And Myths

There are many myths about the causes and detection of breast cancer that are simply untrue and unproven. Here are some of the common myths about breast cancer causes that you may have seen or heard reported in the media.


MYTH:  Abortion and miscarriage cause breast cancer

THE FACTS: AbortionAbortion:
The sudden ending of a pregnancy before the fetus can live outside the womb. An abortion can be involuntary (spontaneous abortion or miscarriage) or voluntary (induced abortion).
does not increase the risk of breast cancer. Scientific evidence demonstrates that there is no link between breast cancer and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or induced abortion.  These findings are supported by:

  • Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada

  • Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada

  • National Cancer Institute (USA)

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

  • Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer

  • World Health Organization


MYTH:  Antiperspirants/Deodorants cause breast cancer 

THE FACTS: Several studies have been conducted on the link between antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer and to date there is no conclusive evidence that they increase your risk for breast cancer.

Some deodorants contain aluminum. You may be advised not to wear deodorant containing aluminum when you go for a screeningScreening:
The search for diseases such as breast cancer in people without symptoms. Mammography is an important tool for breast cancer screening and earlier detection.
mammogramMammogram (also called mammography):
A low-dose X-ray of the breast. It is used to take images of the breasts and is an important screening tool for the earlier detection of breast cancer.
. This is because it could show up on the mammogram images and may lead to an inaccurate result by making breast cancers and other abnormalities harder to detect.

If you are concerned about the ingredients in your personal care products, follow the precautionary principlePrecautionary principle (precautionary approach):
An approach to preventing harm to human health and the environment when the scientific evidence is not conclusive. When we face scientific uncertainty, we have options and we can act. If we think there is potential for harm, we can choose to take preventive action now – this is what’s known as the precautionary principle.
– use simpler products and learn about the ingredients on the label. 


MYTH:  Breast implants cause breast cancer 

THE FACTS: Several studies conclude that having cosmetic breast implantsImplants:
Surgically implanted artificial breasts that are made out of silicone or saline. Women who have had breast cancer surgery by mastectomy may choose to have implants to reconstruct the breast.
does not increase breast cancer risk. However, because x-rays used in mammograms can’t go through saline or silicone implants well, it can make it harder to see breast tissue, and abnormalities including cancers, on mammogram images.

If you have breast implants, continue to have regular mammograms but make sure to let the breast screening clinic know that you have implants when booking your mammogram appointment. A special technique called implant displacement views can be used to screen women with implants. This involves taking extra images with the implant pushed back from the breast tissue (toward the chest wall) to get a clearer picture of the front part of the breast.

Mammography remains the best test for screening women with breast implants. Speak to a health care provider about having a mammogram at an accredited breast cancer screening clinic that offers this special technique, and let the clinic and the technologist know about your implants before your test.


MYTH:  Bruising the breast causes breast cancer

THE FACTS: There is no scientific evidence that bumping or bruising your breast increases the risk of breast cancer. If you have injured your breast and are concerned or experiencing discomfort, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages you to speak to a health care provider.


MYTH:  Men don’t get breast cancer 

THE FACTS: Men have breasts and can develop breast cancer. Their risk, however, is very low, with less than 1% of all breast cancers in Canada occurring in men. Due to the small number of cases, breast cancer in men tends to be less understood than breast cancer in women, is often stigmatizedStigma:
The shame attached to something seen as socially unacceptable. For men with breast cancer, there may be a greater sense of embarrassment about a breast cancer diagnosis because it is often thought of as a woman’s disease.
, and may be misdiagnosed or diagnosed in a later stage.

Men, like women, are encouraged to be breast aware and discuss any unusual changes in their breasts with a health care provider.


MYTH:  Cell phone use causes breast cancer 

THE FACTS: There is no conclusive link between cell phone use and the increased risk of breast cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded in 2011 that radiofrequency fields, such as those from cell phones, may cause specific types of brain cancer. More research is needed to determine whether a link exists.

If you are concerned about cell phone use and the possible link to cancer: 

  • Reduce the amount of time you use a cell phone or consider texting instead of talking

  • Use a headset instead of holding the phone next to your ear

  • Don’t carry your cell phone next to your skin (e.g. in your bra)


MYTH:  Radiation by mammography causes breast cancer

THE FACTS: Modern mammography equipment requires very small doses of radiation. Research confirms that the risk of harm from radiation exposure by having a mammogram is very low. Radiation would need to be delivered to the breast tissue at 100-1000 times higher than used for mammography for it to increase breast cancer risk.

The benefits of the earlier diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in reducing mortality far outweigh the risk of the small dose of radiation received during a mammogram.


MYTH:  Thermography is an effective breast screening tool 

THE FACTS: Research shows that thermographyThermography (also called thermal imaging or infrared imaging):
Is a computerized imaging tool that measures heat distribution at the surface of the breast. While thermography may be appealing to some women because it is a pain-free exam, scientific research has shown that thermography is not reliable for detecting breast cancer.
is not an effective way of detecting breast cancer. No credible research study has shown that thermography is an effective screening tool for detecting breast cancer earlier or as an indicator of a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. Thermography is NOT RECOMMENDED by any leading cancer organization or medical authority as a substitute for regular screening mammograms. In 2012, Health Canada issued a public advisory that thermography machines are not approved for use in Canada for breast cancer screening.


MYTH:  Wearing an underwire bra causes breast cancer

THE FACTS: No research shows that wearing an underwire bra – or any other kind of bra –increases your risk of breast cancer.


MYTH:  Eating soy foods causes breast cancer

THE FACTS: Studies in humans have not linked eating soy foods (e.g. tofu, tempeh, miso, etc.) to increased breast cancer risk. In fact, evidence suggests it may even lower the risk for developing breast cancer. Soy foods can be eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet, both for the general population and people who have had a breast cancer diagnosis.

More research is needed on how soy supplements affect breast cancer risk because they contain much higher isoflavoneIsoflavone:
A type of plant estrogen found primarily in soybeans. Some isoflavones can act like estrogen in the body, but with much less potency.
concentrations than found in food. Until research gives us more information, it is recommended that soy supplements be avoided.


Sources:

American Cancer Society. The Bottom Line on Soy and Breast Cancer Risk. Accessed January 1, 2014.

Health Canada. Thermography Machines are not Authorized to Screen for Breast Cancer. Accessed May 30, 2014.