The Truth Behind 5 Breast Cancer Myths

Breast Cancer Myths© iStockphoto/Thinkstock
Doctors don’t yet know what causes breast cancer, but decades of research has led to an increased understanding of the disease.

Based on this expanding body of knowledge, here are a few breast cancer myths that can be put to rest:

You may have heard: Having a big chest puts you at greater risk.
Truth: Research has shown that the cells in which breast cancer grows are unaffected by the amount of tissue or fat a breast contains. In other words, the size of her breasts is unrelated to a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer.

Women over 50 whose bustiness is due to being overweight, however, do have reason for concern. According to the American Cancer Society, obesity is linked to a long list of cancers, including breast cancer, in women past menopause.

You may have heard: If breast cancer doesn’t run in your family, you’re probably safe.
Truth: Many women are surprised to learn that having no genetic connection to the disease only decreases your odds of developing breast cancer by 5-10 percent. Most cases of breast cancer—even those in women who do have a family history of the disease—are not caused by mutations in the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2.

You may have heard: Taking birth control pills increases your chances of developing breast cancer.
Truth: Birth control pills do contain hormones that are linked to breast cancer. But the doses in today’s pills are considerably lower than 20 years ago, when some studies showed a small increased risk of developing breast cancer in women who took birth control.

Research continues on the potential relationship between the pill and the disease, however enough recent studies have shown no measurable connection that doctors presently do not consider birth control to be a breast cancer risk factor in most women.

You may have heard: Using deodorant can lead to breast cancer.
Truth: The lymph nodes, where some breast cancers develop, are located beneath the underarm, a fact that has inspired several rumors about a link between underarm products and the disease.

Researchers studying claims that deodorants and antiperspirants contain cancer-causing toxins, or prevent the release of toxins from the body, however, have found no evidence for either. Some deodorants and antiperspirants (as well as many lotions, cleansers, and cosmetics) contain parabens, which have been found in breast cancer tissue, but as yet there is no evidence of causation between the ingredients and cancer.

You may have heard: Breast cancer is an older woman’s disease.
Truth: The fact that most cases of breast cancer occur in women over 50 often overshadows the reality that a full 25 percent of breast cancer patients are younger than 50. Doctors recommend women begin performing monthly breast self-exams when they turn 20, along with a clinical exam every three years. Most women should begin getting annual mammograms at 40, but if breast cancer runs in your family, your doctor may suggest scheduling your first at 35 or even 30.

For the truth about more breast cancer myths, see the full list at

Sources:, American Cancer Society

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