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Breast Cancer Facts and Myths

Breast Cancer Facts and Myths

Does smoking and consuming alcohol increase the chances of getting breast cancer?  Does breastfeeding reduce the chances?  Is it true that breast cancer always presents itself in the form of a lump?

Common myths and facts about breast cancer ranging from whether using an anti-perspirant has any affect on the chances of developing the disease to whether drinking green tea can actually help fight it will be covered in daily Tweets and occasional Facebook posts that you can access from the HOME page of this website throughout the month of October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Details explaining the background of each Tweet or Facebook post can be found below as the month progresses.  Check back here frequently for the truth about breast cancer so you can separate the facts from the myths.

Oct 1 – Did you know: One in eight women will be affected by breast cancer during their lifetime. 
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2010, about 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

Oct 2 – Did you know: Breast feeding helps protects against breast cancer.
According to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, some studies have found that breast-feeding may reduce the risk for breast cancer. The benefit seems to be related to how long a woman breast-feeds.

Oct 3 – Did you know: Early detection ensures the best survival rate from breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, most doctors feel that early detection tests for breast cancer save many thousands of lives each year, and that many more lives could be saved if even more women and their health care providers took advantage of these tests.

Oct 4 – Did you know: Women should get a baseline mammogram at age 35; if normal, start annually at age 40. 
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, you should have a baseline mammogram at least five years before the age of breast cancer onset in any close relatives, or starting at age 35. See your physician at any sign of unusual symptoms.

Oct 5 – Did you know: Breast cancers usually do not cause pain, which makes them hard to detect.
Initially, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms. A lump may be too small for you to feel or to cause any unusual changes you can notice on your own. Often, an abnormal area turns up on a screening mammogram, which leads to further testing (
www.breastcancer.org).

Oct 6 – Did you know: Breast cancer warning signs include any lump, change in breast shape, lifting of breast or nipple.
The more common signs include a lump, an area of thickening, or a dimple in the breast. Less common signs include breast swelling and redness or an enlarged underarm lymph node (
www.breastcancer.org).

Oct 7 – Did you know: Breast cancer risk factors include menopause after 50 and family history of breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, women who began their menstrual cycles before age 12, have no children, or had their first child at 30 or older, or began menopause after 55 are at a higher risk.

Oct 8 – Did you know: Ways to reduce breast cancer risk include a low-fat diet, exercise, limiting alcohol, no smoking. 
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation:

  • A nutritious, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. A high-fat diet increases the risk because fat triggers estrogen production that can fuel tumor growth.
  • One or two drinks a day has been shown to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. The greater the levels consumed, the higher the risk.
  • At this point in time there is no conclusive link between smoking and breast cancer. However, due to the number of health risks associated with smoking, quitting can significantly increase survival rates.
  • Exercise pumps up the immune system and lowers estrogen levels. With as little as four hours of exercise per week, a woman can begin to lower her risk of breast cancer.

Oct 9 – Did you know: Long-term estrogen-progesterone hormone therapy increases breast cancer risk. 
Study results from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) raised concerns about the use of hormone therapy for symptoms of menopause. Among other problems, long-term treatment with estrogen-progestin combinations, such as those found in the drug Prempro, increased the risk of breast cancer in women who participated in the trial (www.mayoclinic.com).

Oct 10 – Did you know: 70% of women who develop breast cancer do not have any risk factors. Get tested.
According to the American Cancer Society, most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older).

Oct 11 – Did you know: Maintaining a positive attitude and eliminating stress can help fight breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, although some studies have shown that factors such as traumatic events and losses can alter immune system functions, these studies have not provided any evidence of a direct cause-and-effect relationship between stress and breast cancer. An area currently being studied is whether or not stress reduction can improve immune response and slow progression in women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Oct 12 – Breast Cancer Tip of the Day: Taking your vitamin supplements daily can help fight breast cancer.
Vitamins and minerals in food are essential for our health and well-being and contribute to protecting us from cancer. These vital substances can also be found in supplements to help provide a balanced diet (
www.reducebreastcancerrisk.com).

Oct 13 – Did you know: Limiting processed/red meats and dairy products can help reduce breast cancer risk.
Women who eat a lot of meat, particularly red or processed meats, may be more likely to develop breast cancer, according to a large study of British women. Researchers found that among 35,372 women, between the ages of 35 and 69 years old, who were followed for 8 years, those who ate the largest amount of meat were more likely than non-meat eaters to develop breast cancer before or after menopause (www.breastcancer.org).

Oct 14 – Breast Cancer Tip of the Day: Choosing whole-grain foods instead of refined grains and sugars helps reduce the risk of breast cancer.
The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends filling at least two-thirds of your plate with whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits.  The other third or less can be fish, poultry, meat, eggs, or low-fat dairy.  This provides you with a high-fiber diet full of important nutrients.

Oct 15 – Did you know: Maintaining a body mass index (BMI) under 25 can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of many cancers, including cancer of the breast (in women past menopause), colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus, and kidney.

Oct 16 – Did you know: Avoiding antibiotics unless you really need them can help fight breast cancer.
A study the National Cancer Institute and by the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation shows that use of antibiotics is associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The authors found that the more antibiotics the women in the study had used, the higher their risk of breast cancer.

Oct 17 – Breast Cancer Tip of the Day:  Eating five or more servings of fruits/vegetables daily can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, a nutritious, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.

Oct 18 – Did you know: Adding olive oil to your salad and vegetables daily can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Extra virgin olive and canola oil are the healthiest oils, and have been shown in scientific studies to reduce the risk of breast cancer (www.reducebreastcancerrisk.com).

Oct 19 – True or False? Only older women get breast cancer. FALSE. It can occur at any age.
Just under 7% of all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. However, breast cancer can strike at any age, and women of every age should be aware of their personal risk factors for breast cancer (www.webmd.com).

Oct 20 – Did you know: Having a risk factor for breast cancer doesn’t mean you’re likely to get it.
According to the American Cancer Society, some women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop the disease, while many women with breast cancer have no apparent risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older).

Oct 21 – Did you know: Green tea provides catechin polyphenols, antioxidants that can help fight breast cancer.
Green Tea is a potent source of antioxidants.  Freshly brewed white or black teas are also good sources, but bottled teas of all types are much lower in antioxidants and often contain high amounts of sugar.  Skip the milk.  Recent studies suggest that components of milk block the health benefits of tea (www.reducebreastcancerrisk.com).

Oct 22 – True or False? If breast cancer doesn’t run in your family, you won’t get it.
FALSE. 
According to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength, less than 10% of breast cancer cases are genetically inherited. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease.

Oct 23 – Breast Cancer Tip: Limiting exposure to unhealthy elements like second-hand smoke can reduce the risk of  breast cancer.
Pesticides and certain other chemicals build up in your body over the years. Avoiding second-hand smoke may help reduce the risk for breat cancer. (www.reducebreastcancerrisk.com).
 

Oct 24 – True or False?  Only your mother’s family history of breast cancer can affect your risk. FALSE. 
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, if you have a grandmother (on either side of your family), mother, sister, or daughter who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, it puts you in a higher risk group. Have a baseline mammogram at least five years before the age of breast cancer onset in any close relatives, or starting at age 35. See your physician at any sign of unusual symptoms.

Oct 25 – True or False? Using antiperspirant deodorants can cause breast cancer. FALSE.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 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.

Oct 26 – True or False?  Being at high risk for breast cancer means you can’t do anything about it. False.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if your doctor has assessed your family history and other factors and determined that you may have an increased risk of breast cancer, options to reduce your risk include:
Preventive medications (chemoprevention). Estrogen-blocking medications help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Options include tamoxifen and raloxifene (Evista).
Preventive surgery. Women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed (prophylactic mastectomy). They may also choose to have their healthy ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy) to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Oct 27 – True or False? A nipple discharge indicates that you definitely have breast cancer. FALSE. 
According to the American Cancer Society, most nipple discharges or secretions are not cancer. In most cases, if the fluid looks clear, green, or milky, cancer is very unlikely. If the discharge is red or red-brown, suggesting that it contains blood, it might be caused by cancer. But it is more likely caused by an injury, infection, or a benign tumor.

Oct 28 – True or False?  Breast cancer always presents itself in the form of a lump. FALSE. 
According to the American Cancer Society, if you find changes or something unusual in one of your breasts, it is important to see a doctor or nurse as soon as possible. But keep in mind that most breast changes are not cancer. Just because your doctor wants you to have a biopsy does not mean you have breast cancer: 4 of every 5 biopsy results are not cancer. But the only way to know for sure is to take out and test tissue from the suspicious area of the breast.

Oct 29 – Can wearing a bra cause breast cancer? NO.
Internet e-mail rumors and at least one book have suggested that bras cause breast cancer by obstructing lymph flow. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no scientific or clinical basis for this claim. Women who do not wear bras regularly are more likely to be thinner, which would probably contribute to any perceived difference in risk.

Oct 30 – Can breast feeding cause or increase the risk of breast cancer?
According to the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, some studies have found that breast-feeding may reduce the risk for breast cancer. The benefit seems to be related to how long a woman breast-feeds.

Oct 31 – True or False? Only women get breast cancer.  FALSE.
Men can get breast cancer, too.  According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, each year it is estimated that approximately 1,700 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 450 will die.

 

Page last updated on Nov. 01, 2010