Myths

Does breast cancer only occur in older women?

No. While it’s true that the risk of breast cancer increases as we grow older, breast cancer can occur at any age. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is 1 in 8. The American Cancer Society has found that women between the ages of 20-24 have the lowest rate of diagnosis, while women aged 75-79 have the highest incidence rate.

If one of my family members has breast cancer, will I definitely get it?

No. The majority of women who have breast cancer have no family history. However, your risk is slightly higher than someone who has no family history, and this risk increases with the number of first-degree relatives (mother, sister or daughter) diagnosed and their age at diagnosis (American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute). You must be even more attentive to your breast health. It is important to inform your doctor about your family history.

Is every lump that I discover in my breast cancerous?

No. According to MammaCare®, about 80% of breast lumps are benign or not cancerous. If you discover a lump in your breast or any change in your breast tissue, it is very important that you bring it to the attention of your doctor.

Will taking birth control pills put me at higher risk for breast cancer?

Maybe. The birth control pills that are on the market today have very low levels of estrogen, or no estrogen at all. Although various studies have been conducted, it is currently unclear how birth control pills affect your risk for breast cancer (American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute). If you plan to be on birth control pills for five years or more, your risk may increase. This is something you should discuss with your doctor.

Does wearing an underwire bra, a tight bra, a sports bra, or even sleeping with a bra on cause breast cancer?

No, none of the above causes breast cancer. Although it may cause temporary discomfort, the idea that constant pressure on the breast causes trauma is not true. Nor does it impact the lymphatic system (American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute). Read more about bras and the breast cancer myth.

Can men get breast cancer?

Yes. Although women are at a much higher risk, the National Cancer Institute reports that approximately 1700 men per year are diagnosed in the United States. Read more about men and breast cancer.

Do antiperspirants cause breast cancer?

No. Researchers have not found any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants with the subsequent development of breast cancer. Studies show that the ingredients in antiperspirant do not clog the lymph nodes and do not hinder the body from releasing toxins. The National Cancer Institute, Food and Drug Administration, the Mayo Clinic, the American Cancer Society and the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association all agree with the above statements.

If I have large breasts, am I at a higher risk for breast cancer?

No. Breast size does not play a role in the risk of developing breast cancer.

Do breast implants cause breast cancer?

No. However, depending on whether the implant is inserted in front or behind the pectoral muscle, breast implants may make a Breast Self Examination difficult. Implants may also make it harder for a doctor to interpret a mammogram.

Do nipple piercings cause breast cancer?

Nipple piercings do not cause breast cancer. You are at risk of getting an infection and encountering complications with breastfeeding.

Does sun exposure increase the risk for developing breast cancer?

According to an article by the ACS, Vitamin D, which is a nutrient that much of us get through sun exposure, is known to be beneficial to our health. Many believe that vitamin D from the sun and other places, may in fact lower your cancer risk. Although it is well known knowledge that prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, the full benefits of sun exposure still remains controversial. The ACS recommends limiting sun exposure as much as possible.

Can a woman who has just given birth, breast feed a baby if she has breast cancer?

According to Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book, a child who drinks from a cancerous breast will not get cancer. However, a cancerous breast will typically not produce as much milk, so the child will probably favor the cancer-free breast. Women who are receiving treatment for their breast cancer should not breast feed.