6 Myths About Breast Cancer

Posted October 25, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 5 min read

Breast cancer is one of the better-known and more-talked-about cancers, but there are still many misconceptions.

Myth: If I don’t have a family history of breast cancer, I won’t get it.


  • Most people diagnosed with breast cancer have no known family history.

  • Many people think of breast cancer as an inherited disease.

  • But only about 5–10% of breast cancers are believed to be hereditary, meaning they’re caused by abnormal changes (or mutations) in certain genes passed from parent to child.

  • The vast majority of people who get breast cancer have no family history, suggesting that other factors must be at work, such as environment and lifestyle.

  • But doctors often can’t explain why one person gets breast cancer and another doesn’t.

  • The biggest risk factors are simply being a woman and growing older.

  • Over time, healthy breast cells can develop mutations on their own, eventually turning into cancer cells.

  • Still, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer on either your mother’s or your father’s side, this is an important risk factor that should be taken seriously.

  • If there are one or more cases of breast cancer in close blood relatives, especially before age 50, and/or other cancers such as ovarian and prostate cancer in your family, share this information with your doctor.

Myth: If you maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, eat healthy, and limit alcohol, you don’t have to worry about breast cancer.


  • Although these behaviors can help lower breast cancer risk, they can’t eliminate it.

  • It’s something we hear again and again from newly diagnosed women: I eat healthy, I’m at a healthy weight, I’m active, and I barely drink. So how did I end up with breast cancer?

  • Yes, there is evidence that all of these behaviors can help lower your risk.

  • However, they can’t guarantee you’ll never get the disease.

  • There are so many examples of people who do everything right and still get breast cancer.

  • It’s certainly worth managing the risk factors you can control, such as what you eat and drink and how physically active you are.

  • But it’s still important to get regular screenings, perform breast self-exams, and pay attention to any unusual changes in your breasts.

  • And if you have any health-nut friends or relatives who think there’s no way they’d ever get breast cancer, help them understand that no one is 100% safe.

Myth: Wearing a bra can cause breast cancer.


  • There is no evidence that bras cause breast cancer.

  • From time to time, media coverage and the internet have fueled myths that wearing a bra can increase breast cancer risk.

  • The theory was that wearing a bra especially an underwire style could restrict the flow of lymph fluid out of the breast, causing toxic substances to build up in the tissue.

  • However, there is no evidence to support this claim.

  • A 2014 study of roughly 1,500 women with breast cancer found no link between bra-wearing and breast cancer.

Myth: Using underarm antiperspirant can cause breast cancer.


  • There is no evidence of a connection between underarm antiperspirant and breast cancer, but the safety of antiperspirants is still being studied.

  • There have been persistent rumors that underarm antiperspirants, especially those containing aluminum and other chemicals, are absorbed into the lymph nodes and make their way into breast cells, increasing cancer risk.

  • Shaving the underarms was thought to make this worse by creating tiny nicks that allow more of the chemicals to enter the body.

  • Another theory was that antiperspirants, by stopping underarm sweating, can prevent the release of toxic substances from the underarm lymph nodes, also increasing cancer risk.

  • However, there is no evidence of a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.

  • Still, some studies have found that women who use aluminum products under their arms are more likely to have higher concentrations of aluminum in breast tissue. 

Myth: Consuming too much sugar causes breast cancer.


  • There is no evidence that sugar in the diet causes breast cancer.
  • Not just with breast cancer but with all types of cancer, there’s a common myth that sugar can feed the cancer and speed up its growth.
  • All cells, whether cancerous or healthy, use the sugar in the blood (called glucose) as fuel.
  • While it’s true that cancer cells consume sugar more quickly than normal cells, there isn’t any evidence that excessive sugar consumption causes cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer always causes a lump you can feel.


  • Breast cancer might not cause a lump, especially when it first develops.

  • People are sometimes under the impression that breast cancer always causes a lump that can be felt during a self-exam.

  • They might use this as a reason to skip mammograms, thinking they’ll be able to feel any change that might indicate a problem.

  • However, breast cancer doesn’t always cause a lump.

  • By the time it does, the cancer might have already moved beyond the breast into the lymph nodes.

  • Although performing breast self-exams is certainly a good idea, it isn’t a substitute for regular screening with mammography.

  • There are some other myths about what types of breast lumps are less worrisome, such as: If the lump is painful, it isn’t breast cancer, and If you can feel a lump that is smooth, and/or that moves around freely under the skin, it’s not breast cancer.

  • Any lump or unusual mass that can be felt through the skin needs to be checked out by a healthcare professional.

  • Although most lumps are benign (not cancer), there is always the possibility of breast cancer.

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