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5 Common Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

October 18, 2016


Whether you’re curious about the disease or have been diagnosed, reading about breast cancer can be overwhelming. Googling the phrase and you’re met with a flurry of results, including common questions like, “Does using deodorant cause breast cancer?” or “Do underwire bras cause breast cancer?”

We’ve taken the top five myths surrounding breast cancer and debunked them.

Myth No. 1: Only women with a family history are at risk for breast cancer.

While having a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter, father, brother) with the disease can raise your risk, about eight in 10 women who develop breast cancer have no family history.

The American Cancer Society says lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Being overweight or obese after menopause
  • Getting less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week
  • Not having children or having a first child after age 30

Myth No. 2: Wearing an underwire bra raises your risk for breast cancer.

This myth originated with the idea that the underwires in bras do not allow lymph fluid or toxins to properly drain from the breasts. The accumulation of fluids or toxins is what results in the formation of cancer.

A study from the American Association for Cancer Research found no association between wearing an underwire bra and developing breast cancer.

Myth No. 3: Only women can get breast cancer.

It may seem surprising, but men also have breast tissue, and as a result, can develop breast cancer. However, the disease is less common in men because men’s breast duct cells are less developed than women’s and because they have lower levels of female hormones that can affect breast cell growth.

In 2016, the American Cancer Society estimates about 2,600 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in men and 440 men will die from the disease.

Myth No. 4: A breast lump always indicates cancer.

While a lump is the most familiar sign of breast cancer, the disease can show itself in other ways. Other possible signs of breast cancer include:

  • Swelling in a part or all of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Nipple retraction
  • Skin redness, scaling or thickening on the breast or nipple
  • Any nipple discharge that’s not breast milk

Alternatively, a lump doesn’t always indicate cancer. In fact, most breast conditions aren’t cancerous, according to the Cancer Society.

Myth No. 5: There’s nothing you can do to prevent breast cancer.

While there is no definitive way to prevent breast cancer, lifestyle adjustments can help reduce your risk.

These include: