Debunking Breast Cancer Myths
It’s easy to get caught up in sensationalist headlines when it comes to the causes of cancer.
It’s easy to get caught up in sensationalist headlines when it comes to the causes of cancer. Most of the rumours have no scientific backing, and misinformation can cause people to needlessly worry. Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, it’s talked about a lot, leading to many misconceptions. The more we know about breast cancer, the better, so let’s debunk some of the most common myths.
MYTH 1: I’m too young to get breast cancer
Age is a known contributing risk factor for all types of cancer. 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are aged 50 and over, but breast cancer does affect young women, too. Around 4% of breast cancer cases are in women aged 39 and under. So yes, whilst it’s more common in older women, women of any age can develop breast cancer.
MYTH 2: I won’t get breast cancer because it doesn’t run in my family
There are certain inherited genes, like BRCA1 and BRCA2, that may increase the risk of developing breast cancer. The Generations Study found that inherited genes are only found in around 5% of women with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, so multiple family members may develop the disease without genetics being a contributing factor. It’s possible to get a genetic test to see if you have an inherited gene, so talk to your GP if you are worried about this.
MYTH 3: Men don’t get breast cancer
It is a common perception that breast cancer only affects women, but men can get it too. Less than 1%, around 370, of new breast cancer diagnoses are in men. Everyone has breast tissue, making it possible for breast cancer to develop in all genders.
MYTH 4: All breast lumps are cancerous
Most lumps found in women’s breasts are actually benign (non-cancerous). If you do find a lump, always check it out with your GP regardless of whether or not you think it may be benign. Equally, some instances of breast cancer do not cause a noticeable lump. Make sure you are aware of the other signs and symptoms of breast cancer, such as discharge, swelling, rashes and changes in the shape and appearance of the nipple or breasts.
MYTH 5: I have a healthy lifestyle, so I won’t get breast cancer
There is no known way to prevent getting breast cancer. Studies have found that smoking, especially those who started smoking at a young age, can increase the risk of breast cancer. Quitting smoking, eating well and exercising can help to boost your immune system, but nothing will completely eradicate the risk of developing breast cancer.
'Make sure you are aware of the other signs and symptoms of breast cancer, such as discharge, swelling, rashes and changes in the shape and appearance of the nipple or breasts.'
MYTH 6: Putting my phone in my bra increases the risk of breast cancer
We’ve probably all found ourselves in a desperate situation where the only place to put our phone is in our bra. We’ve also all heard the myth that this might be a cause of breast cancer. Whilst phones do transmit radio waves, they aren’t particularly strong, and there’s no evidence to suggest they are harmful. Maybe save yourself the discomfort and find another place for your phone, though.
MYTH 7: Bras can cause breast cancer
Similarly, the bra itself will not increase your risk of getting breast cancer. The type of bra, the size of the bra, whether it has underwire or not, none of these factors will increase the risk of getting breast cancer.
MYTH 8: Deodorants are a cause of breast cancer
This is a common myth that has been floating around, but there is no conclusive evidence that using deodorants or antiperspirants increases the risk of breast cancer. Similarly, shaving your underarms is not a factor either. So stay fresh and know that, if you choose to, you can safely shave your pits.
MYTH 9: Impact on the breast e.g. injury, or pinching, will cause breast cancer
Obviously, boobs are very sensitive. Any impact injury may cause bruising or swelling, but it’s nothing to worry about. Benign lumps may form, but this is natural when the body is healing itself. There is no evidence to support a link between impact injuries and breast cancer.
MYTH 10: Stress causes breast cancer
Stress can have a detrimental effect on our physical and psychological health, so it is often considered a likely cause of cancer. The Generations Study investigated the variable and found no association has been found between stress and breast cancer, so don’t worry about being too worried.