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Myth vs. truth: What to believe about breast cancer

Published On: May 07 2013 02:52:49 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 22 2013 11:46:31 AM CDT
Cancer definition

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By Pure Matters

If you think that you're not at risk because there's no breast cancer in your family, you might be mistaken. The truth is that scientists still don't know what causes breast cancer - only that certain factors, such as obesity or drinking too much alcohol, may increase risk. Here's a little help understanding what researchers do know about breast cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer is largely genetic.
Fact: Just 5 to 10 percent of cases are due to faulty breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. Even in women who have a family history, many cases are due not to specific gene mutations, according to the American Cancer Society, but rather to a combination of shared lifestyle factors and genetic susceptibilities.

Myth: Breast cancer always appears as a lump.
Fact: Approximately 10 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer have no lumps, pain, or other breast symptoms. And among lumps that are detected, 80 to 85 percent are benign. That said, any lump or breast symptom that does not go away should be checked by a doctor.

Myth: Young women don't get breast cancer.
Fact: Breast cancer is more common in postmenopausal women, but it can affect people of any age. In fact, women under 50 account for 25 percent of all breast cancer cases, and they tend to have higher mortality rates. This may be partly explained by the fact that younger women tend to have denser breasts, which makes it harder to spot lumps during mammograms. Because of this, it's a good idea to perform monthly breast self-exams starting at age 20, have a clinical exam by a doctor every three years, and start mammography screening at age 40. If you have dense breasts or a family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor about more advanced screening options, such as MRI and digital mammogram.

Myth: Deodorant and antiperspirants cause breast cancer.
Fact: One e-mail rumor claimed that antiperspirant prevents you from sweating out toxins, which can then accumulate in the lymph nodes and cause breast cancer. But in 2002, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle found no link. A second rumor speculated that certain chemicals in antiperspirants, such as aluminum and parabens, may cause breast cancer because there is a lower prevalence of the disease in developing countries where women don't use these products. However, in Europe, where antiperspirants are not widely used, the rate of breast cancer is higher than it is in the United States.

Myth: Wearing a bra increases your cancer risk.
Fact: This rumor appears to have started after a book called Dressed to Kill suggested that bras obstruct toxin-laden lymph fluid from flowing out of the breast. However, this was speculation based on a survey and no scientific evidence. Since then, major medical institutions have refuted the claim. If women who don't wear bras are less likely to get breast cancer, it's probably because they tend to be thinner; obesity is a known risk factor.

Myth: Breast cancer is preventable.
Fact: Although you can certainly address certain risk factors like obesity and inactivity, there's not enough information about what causes breast cancer for women to prevent it completely. To prevent breast cancer once and for all, more research is needed -- especially studies that examine differences between women who get it and those who don't.

Source: Pure Matters