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Breast Cancer Myths Vs. Realities

Oct 04, 2017 02:00PM

Do underwire bras cause breast cancer? Is my deodorant making me sick? Considering your risk factors for breast cancer is never a bad thing. Knowing what those factors are and discussing them with your doctor can help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

But the topic of breast cancer doesn’t come without its myths and misconceptions. It’s important you learn the facts. While scientists still don’t know what causes breast cancer, research has disproven some factors.

Wen Liang, MD, breast surgeon at The Rebecca Fortney Breast Center at Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) sheds light on what’s myth and what’s reality when it comes to your breast health.


Myth: Underwire bras cause cancer.



Reality: There is no good scientific or clinical evidence to support that underwire bras (or any bras) increase your risk of breast cancer. This myth stems from the idea that underwire bras block circulation of lymphatic fluid, causing breasts to swell with “toxins.” A recent study of more than 1,500 women debunked this myth, and found no association between wearing a bra and breast cancer.


Myth: Deodorant/antiperspirants/shaving your underarms causes breast cancer.



Reality: There is no conclusive research to support this. The urban legend is sweat glands become blocked and the toxic compounds accumulate, causing cancer. In 2002, a study involving 1,600 women failed to show a correlation between breast cancer and shaving, deodorant, or antiperspirant use.

It is also perfectly fine to use deodorant or antiperspirants before a doctor’s visit. This will not affect your breast exam. Before a mammogram, however, do not wear deodorant that contains aluminum oxide. This ingredient appears bright white on a mammogram and can mimic microcalcifications, which are small deposits of calcium in the breast. Microcalcifications may be a sign of either benign or suspicious changes in the breast tissue, and may lead to the recommendation of a biopsy.


Myth: Cookies cause breast cancer.



Reality: Of course cookies do not cause breast cancer. But you may have read or been told that certain foods increase your breast cancer risk. In reality, experts have never linked any particular food to breast cancer. On the other hand, research shows a balanced diet, especially a Mediterranean-based diet, plays a role in the prevention of breast cancer. There is an indisputable relationship between our nutritional intake and our overall health. This includes our intake of alcohol. Physicians generally recommend drinking less than seven drinks per week to decrease your risk of breast cancer and other cancers as well as other long-term health issues.


Myth: I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, so that’s someone else’s problem.



Reality: The vast majority of patients underestimates or overestimates their risk of breast cancer. Neither is helpful. Family history is a risk factor, but it’s not the only factor. In fact, simply being a woman and getting older puts you at a higher risk for breast cancer. Living in North America, because of our general diets, also increases your risk. These three risk factors put you at higher risk than your family history alone.


Myth: My breast hurts—I may have breast cancer.



Reality: Less than five percent of patients with breast pain actually have breast cancer. The most common causes of breast pain are due to benign tissue changes or chest wall inflammation. Breast swelling, tenderness or pain may be due to hormone changes, caffeine intake, or stress. Chest wall inflammation (or costochondritis) is extremely common. It can be caused by weight loss or gain, not wearing a supportive bra, or everyday activities, like caring for a child, housework, gardening, or exercising. Your doctor may send you for breast imaging to give you a proper diagnosis.


Myth: I can’t do anything to prevent breast cancer.



Reality: There are several risk factors you can control. One way you can help prevent breast cancer is with exercise. More than 60 studies show that regular exercise lowers your risk of breast cancer by 20 to 40 percent. If you’re a breast cancer survivor, exercise can help prevent breast cancer from returning by the same percentage.

Knowledge is power. Understanding your personal risk factors for breast cancer can empower you to make healthier choices. It can also make you more aware of any changes in your breasts early on, before cancer develops or while it is still highly curable.

Take a proactive step for your breast health with programs like the Risk Assessment and Prevention Program (RAPP) at the AAMC Rebecca Fortney Breast Center. See if RAPP is right for you. Call to request a consultation at 443-481-5300.

“Breast Cancer Myths & Realities” was provided by Anne Arundel Medical Center

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