Lies You’ve Been Told About Breast Cancer

Even if you aren’t aware of its most devastating symptoms, you’ve likely heard stories about women dealing with breast cancer. These “I wish I would have known” stories often carry a variety of myths science has shown aren’t true.

Can you do anything to decrease your risk of developing breast cancer? Do mammograms actually help? Here are the myths and facts all women — and men — should be aware of.

Myth: Breast cancer is completely genetic

Love between mother and her daughter

Breast cancer is not always genetic. | iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Many people who develop this type of cancer have a family history, or carry the gene that increases their risk. But your genes aren’t the only, or even the most important, risk factor. Your risk increases as you age, the later you get pregnant (if at all), and the later you begin menopause. These are still factors you can’t control, but you still can’t fully blame your genes.

Myth: Men can’t get breast cancer

Male breast cancer survivors

Men can definitely be diagnosed with breast cancer. | CJMGrafx/Getty Images

This type of cancer isn’t exclusive to women. Though men are 100 times less likely to develop it than women, they still face a lifetime risk of 1 in 1,000. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 2,000 men will receive a new diagnosis in 2018.

Myth: Going ‘bra-less’ decreases your risk

Woman examining her breasts

Wearing or not wearing a bra will not make or break your chances of developing breast cancer. | iStock.com

When someone publishes a book claiming a fact, even years of studies disproving it won’t change minds. Put simply, underwire bras do not cause breast cancer. This claim lacks the scientific evidence necessary to prove wearing a bra increases your risk. You’re more than welcome to ditch your bras even just for the sake of comfort, but it’s probably not going to prevent you from getting cancer.

Myth: Deodorant causes breast cancer

Nivea deodorant bottles

There isn’t any strong evidence that proves deodorant causes breast cancer. | Philipp Guelland/AFP/Getty Images

Many women worry that behaviors like applying deodorant and underarm shaving increase their cancer risk. Scientifically, there isn’t any strong evidence that proves this. Yes, there are chemicals in antiperspirant products that might seem dangerous. But it’s not very likely that putting on deodorant every morning will give you cancer.

Myth: You can’t lower your breast cancer risk

Three Female Friends Enjoying Drink At Outdoor Bar

Going easy on the wine can lower your breast cancer risk. | Monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

Because many people believe this type of cancer is mostly genetic, there’s a misconception that there isn’t anything you can do to lower your risk. In reality, there are many things you can do every single day to help prevent it.

Everyday habits like eating well, exercising, and monitoring your alcohol intake can help lower your risk, even if you only make very small changes, one at a time.

Myth: Abortions increase your breast cancer risk

A person holding an abortion pamphlet in there hands with "Abortion: Yes or No?" written on it.

An abortion also doesn’t increase your risk of breast cancer. | Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

As far as researchers and other experts can tell, having an abortion does not increase your risk. Studies haven’t been able to find a strong connection between the two events, since it’s such a difficult thing for scientists to evaluate.

Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer

Woman receiving a mammogram

Mammograms are worth the risk. | MYCHELE DANIAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Getting a mammogram to screen for evidence of cancer does expose you to low levels of radiation. This is one of those cases in which a procedure’s benefits far outweigh their potential risks, though. Mammograms help catch cancer early. The earlier you’re diagnosed, the better your chances of survival.

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