We educate nearly 25,000 people each year about breast health and we have noticed some common misconceptions. Part of our goal of educating people about breast cancer is debunking the myths about what does and does not cause breast cancer.
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 almost- 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. [BACK TO TOP]
If one of my family members has breast cancer, will I definitely get it?
No. The vast 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 relatives diagnosed and their age at diagnosis (American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute). It is important to learn your family’s medical history and share this information with your physician. [BACK TO TOP]
Is every lump that I discover in my breast cancerous?
No, 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. [BACK TO TOP]
Does wearing an underwire bra, a tight bra, a sports bra, or even wearing a bra to sleep 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. [BACK TO TOP]
Can men get breast cancer?
Yes. Although women are at a much higher risk, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,600 men per year are diagnosed in the United States. They estimate that about 500 men will die each year from breast cancer. Read more about men and breast cancer. [BACK TO TOP]
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, and the American Cancer Society all agree with the above statements. [BACK TO TOP]
If I have large breasts, am I at a greater risk for breast cancer?
No. Breast size does not play a role in the risk of developing breast cancer. [BACK TO TOP]
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 and may reduce breast cancer survival rates. Although implants do not cause breast cancer, certain implants have been linked to a rare form of lymphoma, anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). [BACK TO TOP]
Do nipple piercings cause breast cancer?
Is a lump the only sign of breast cancer?
No. Although a lump in the breast tissue can be a sign of breast cancer, there are also other signs. Some signs of inflammatory breast cancer include red and irritated skin, skin thickening and texture that feels like the peel of an orange, and breast that feel tender, itchy, and warmer. Since a lump is not always the first sign of breast cancer, it is important to note visual changes to the breast during your breast self-exam. For a more complete listing of visual changes to look for check out our: How to do a BSE page. [BACK TO TOP]
Does getting hit in the chest cause breast cancer?
No, getting hit in the chest does not cause breast cancer. If you are hit hard enough in the chest a lump may form, but it is not a cancerous lump. [BACK TO TOP]
Does breast pain indicate breast cancer?
Most breast cancers do not cause pain in the breast, but some do. Breast pain is more often associated with non-cancerous breast conditions or the menstrual cycle. However, it is important that you speak to your doctor about your symptoms, as medical treatment may be necessary. [BACK TO TOP]