Setting the record straight on breast cancer risk

When it comes to the risk factors for breast cancer, there are a lot of myths to cloud the facts. But with one in eight women in the UK developing the disease in their lifetime, and 11,500 still losing their lives each year, it’s important that the facts are clear about how women can spot the signs of this devastating disease early and – even better – reduce their risk of developing it. We debunk six common myths about the causes of breast cancer.

MYTH #1: Bumping or bruising your breast can cause breast cancer

There is no evidence to suggest that a bump or bruise to the breast area causes breast cancer. After an injury, you might be taking more notice of your breasts and therefore be more likely to notice something unusual. If everyone always paid as close attention to their breasts as they do after they’ve taken a knock, we might be able to catch more breast cancers earlier.

MYTH #2: Family history is the main cause of breast cancer

While a strong family history of the disease does increase your risk, it’s worth noting that only 5-15% of breast cancers are related to an increased risk due to family history. If you have several blood relatives who’ve had breast or ovarian cancer, or have blood relatives who were diagnosed with breast cancer when they were under 40, you could be eligible for referral to a genetics specialist. To learn more about how your family history may affect your breast cancer risk, visit our online family history guide.

MYTH #3: Deodorants and antiperspirants increase your risk of breast cancer Since the late 90s, rumours about deodorants and antiperspirants causing breast cancer have been rife – but the evidence does not support this claim. What is true is that women are asked to avoid using antiperspirants before they go to a mammogram. This is because the aluminium particles in these products can sometimes show up on the x-ray image, resulting in an inaccurate reading.

MYTH #4: You need training from a healthcare professional to be able to check your breasts properly

Many women still believe that to properly check their breasts, they need training from a healthcare professional. This is not the case. There is no set technique to checking your breasts – it’s as easy as Touch Look Check: Just get to know how your breasts look and feel normally, check regularly, and report any unusual changes to your doctor.

MYTH #5: You can’t get screened if you have breast implants While this isn’t true, if you do have implants, you should let your screening service know before attending your appointment, as they may need to ensure they have the right equipment available.

Implants can make it harder for the radiographer to see the breast tissue, so they may need to take additional x-ray images from different angles to ensure all breast tissue is examined. They may also need to check the x-ray straight away to ensure it has worked properly, which requires digital technology.

MYTH #6: Eating ‘superfoods’ reduces your risk of breast cancer There is no such thing as a ‘superfood’ when it comes to reducing your risk of developing breast cancer. Many so-called ‘superfoods’ contain natural chemicals, such as vitamins and minerals, which

have been shown to have positive health effects in studies in the lab. But these studies often contain extremely large doses of a purified ingredient, which is not an accurate representation of how healthy foods are digested in the human body. Therefore, there’s little evidence to suggest that eating ‘superfoods’ provides enough of a specific ingredient to have any effect on our health, let alone on breast cancer risk.

What we do know is that a healthy diet can help to lower your risk of breast cancer because it helps you maintain a healthy weight. Through being more physically active and reducing your alcohol intake – you can also actively reduce your risk of the disease.

For more information about how to check your breasts and reducing your risk of breast cancer, visit http://breastcancernow.org/about-breast-cancer

Alana Blair

Alana Blair is Health Information Marketing Manager at the charity, Breast Cancer Now.
Alana Blair

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Chris Exley
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Chris Exley

I am afraid that your Myth No. 3 either shows that you do not read the scientific literature, and not even the Hippocratic Post (https://www.hippocraticpost.com/cancer/antiperspirants-increase-risk-breast-cancer/) or that your head is stuck in the sand. It is sad when someone working for a Breast Cancer charity is either so badly informed or so bigoted.