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6 Breast Cancer Myths You Should Stop Believing This Instant

By BCRF | October 13, 2015

BCRF and Women’s Health Magazine debunk common myths

When it comes to breast cancer, you know the facts: One in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease in her lifetime, and about 40,000 women in the U.S. die each year from it, according to the American Cancer Society. But there’s a lot of info out there that’s just not true. Here, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) is shedding light on common breast cancer myths so that you can make informed decisions about your health.

1. Myth: Breast Cancer Only Happens to Women
Truth: Men can get breast cancer, although it is about 100 times less common among them than among women. For men, the lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about one in 1,000. Diagnoses usually come at a later stage for men, leading to significantly increased mortality rates. Sharon Giordano, M.D. and Fatima Cardoso, M.D are leading the world’s largest study of male breast cancer (largely funded by BCRF) that will provide important answers to how this disease differs between men and women.

2. Myth: Breast Cancer Only Happens to Older People
Truth: When it comes to age, breast cancer does not discriminate. Approximately 12,880 women in the U.S. under 40 will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society. BCRF researchers are studying the link between breast cancer and heredity to learn more about risk factors (race and ethnicity play big roles). To better understand your risk of developing breast cancer at any age, know your family history—both paternal and maternal histories—and speak to your doctor. 

3. Myth: Everyone’s Breast Cancer Is the Same
Truth: Breast cancer is, in fact, several different diseases, per research supported by BCRF. Scientists are now learning that the major subtypes—Luminal A, Luminal B, HER2-positive, and Triple Negative—can be further classified into sub-categories with distinct patterns of progression and response to therapies, opening the door to more individualized treatment plans.

4. Myth: Breast Cancer Is Always in the Form of a Lump
Truth: There are many other signs that may point to a breast cancer diagnosis, including swelling of the breast, skin irritation, nipple inversion (turning inwards), redness, scaliness, or discharge other than breast milk.

5. Myth: Wire Bras or Deodorant Can Increase Your Risk of Breast Cancer
Truth: No, you don’t have to go braless or walk around sweating. This is a very old myth that has been debunked by research. A 2014 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prevention, for example, found that bra-wearing habits, such as underwire or average hours worn, were not associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. And according to the National Cancer Institute, there is no conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirant and deodorant with breast cancer.

6. Myth: You Don’t Need Regular Mammograms if You Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Truth: While exercise and diet can reduce your risk for breast cancer, scientists do not yet fully understand what causes breast cancer or the impact of other environmental factors. It is important to have regular and routine screenings as an integral part of living a healthy lifestyle. Speak to your doctor on when you should consider having annual mammograms, as the age you start getting them might vary depending on your family history.

*This story was written by BCRF, orginally published on