There are many myths about the causes and detection of breast cancer that are unfounded or simply untrue. 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: 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:
• American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
• Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer
• National Cancer Institute (USA)
• Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada
• Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
• 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 of breast cancer.
Some deodorants contain aluminum. You may be advised not to wear deodorant containing aluminum when you go for a screening mammogram. 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 principle – use simpler products and read the label so you avoid anything with “parfum” or “fragrance.”
MYTH: Breast implants cause breast cancer
THE FACTS: Several studies conclude that having cosmetic breast implants does not increase breast cancer risk. However, implants can sometimes 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 program 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.
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. The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation encourages all women and men to practice being breast aware. Know what changes to check for and if you notice any unusual changes discuss them with 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 fewer than one per cent of all breast cancer cases in Canada occurring in men. Despite the small number of cases, breast cancer in men is not well understood, stigmatized, and may be mis-diagnosed or diagnosed at 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 currently 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 cancer but more research is needed before this is confirmed.
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 mammography is very low. Radiation would need to be delivered to the breast tissue at 100-1000 times higher than used for mammography in order to have a statistical increase in breast cancer risk.
The benefits of the earlier diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer 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 thermography 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.
MYTH: Wearing an underwire bra causes breast cancer
THE FACTS: No research shows that wearing an underwire bra – or any other kind –increases your risk of breast cancer.
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