written by

Taya Kevwitch

Taya Kevwitch is the Project Coordinator, Marketing and Information Technology at RIA and Invision Sally Jobe

October 1, 2019

What causes breast cancer? Not bras or dairy.

We all know the internet makes it easier to find information, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always easy to find accurate information. As part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want to take a moment to dispel some of the myths surrounding breast cancer and its causes.

MYTH: Bras cause cancer.

Some people believe that bras, especially bras with underwire, compress the lymphatic system, causing toxins to accumulate in the breast area, increasing the risk of breast cancer. There is no evidence to support this claim.

MYTH: Risk is entirely due to genetics.

While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, statistically only about 10% of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. If you have a mother, daughter, or sister who developed breast cancer below the age of 50, you should consider some form of regular diagnostic breast imaging starting 10 years before the age of your relative’s diagnosis. For second degree relatives (a grandmother or aunt who was diagnosed with breast cancer), your risk increases slightly, but it is not in the same risk category as those who have a first degree relative with breast cancer. That said, you can undergo genetic counseling to learn more about the role genetics play in breast cancer risk.

MYTH: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer.

MYTH: Only women can get breast cancer.

It is estimated that approximately 2,190 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Of these, 410 will die. While this percentage is small, men should also check themselves periodically by doing a breast self-exam while in the shower and reporting any changes to their physicians.

Breast cancer in men is usually detected as a hard lump underneath the nipple and areola.  Men carry a higher mortality than women do, primarily because awareness among men is less and they are less likely to assume a lump is breast cancer, which can cause a delay in seeking treatment. The same guidelines for self-checking apply for men: be consistent and consult with your physician if you notice anything that feels abnormal.

MYTH: Consuming dairy causes breast cancer.

Several myths persist about the correlation between dairy intake and the increased risk of breast cancer. Over many decades, studies have shown that dairy consumption does not increase the risk of breast cancer. However, because dairy can be high in fat, which can contribute to higher body weight (and obesity does increase the risk of breast cancer), it is advised to eat full fat dairy in moderation.

MYTH: A lump is always a sign of breast cancer.

If you regularly do breast self-examinations, you’re probably familiar with the lumpy terrain of breast tissue. Cysts, breast fibroadenomas, fibrocystic breasts, calcifications or just plain ol’ fat deposits. There are a lot of lumps that are nothing to do with cancer. In fact, only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer.  But if you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, don’t ignore it. Schedule an appointment with your doctor for a clinical breast exam. Your doctor will examine the area and may decide to order further diagnostic tests, like a mammogram or ultrasound, to determine if this lump is of concern or not.
Take charge of your health by performing routine breast self-exams, establishing ongoing communication with your doctor, getting an annual clinical breast exam, and scheduling your routine screening  mammograms.