Health & Wellness

4 Breast Cancer Myths Debunked

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As the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and the second leading cause of death among women, breast cancer concern abounds.

But not everything you hear and read holds true. Rumors and myths about practices that increase the risk of breast cancer can cause unnecessary alarm, while other beliefs can downplay real threats. Here experts talk about some of the most common beliefs and the truth behind them.

Myth: Wearing an underwire bra increases your risk of breast cancer 

No evidence backs up the theory that underwire bras may cause cancer, according to BreastCancer.org. One study that suggested a link between underwire bras and breast cancer included too many variables that weren’t controlled such as BMI, says Maggie DiNome, MD, director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “Since obesity is a known risk factor it’s possible the women with higher BMIs more frequently wore underwire bras,” suggests DiNome. 

Myth: Small breasted women have a lower chance of breast cancer 

Although a 2012 study suggests a link between breast size and cancer risk, the connection may relate to body weight and obesity, researchers suggest. “Breast size may theoretically contribute to cancer risk in that the fewer breast cells present, the fewer that might become cancerous,” says DiNome, “but smaller breasted women may also have denser breasts, which can increase cancer risk. So, breast size in and of itself is neither a risk factor nor protector for breast cancer risk.”

Myth: Caffeine increases breast cancer risk

A study of coffee and caffeine intake involving over 2,800 breast cancer cases that took place over 11 years showed no association between coffee (regular and decaf), tea or caffeine consumption and breast cancer risk. “Caffeine can worsen symptoms from fibrocystic changes in the breast but this does not increase cancer risk,” says DiNome.

Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer should worry  

Three out of four breast cancer patients do not have any family history of breast cancer, says Homayoon Sanati, MD, medical director of the MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, Calif. “Since that’s the majority of breast cancer diagnoses all women should be aware of their risk.”

Reduce your risk of breast cancer by following established guidelines: maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol to no more than one alcoholic drink a day and exercise moderately at least 1.25 to 2.5 hours a week.

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