There are many myths about breast cancer and sometimes it's hard to know what to believe and what to ignore.
There are some things that we know are simply not true – that only women can get breast cancer, for example. In Australia, about 145 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
There are other myths that are not supported by research or are unproven because not enough research has been done to support the claim:
- Wearing underwire or tight-fitting bras – Cancer Australia, Australia’s leading national cancer control agency, states that research does not support the claim that underwire or tight-fitting bras increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
- Using antiperspirants or deodorants - Internet rumours have suggested that chemicals in underarm antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, interfere with lymph circulation, and cause toxins to build up in the breast, eventually leading to breast cancer. There is not enough evidence to show that using antiperspirants or deodorants can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. The US National Institute of Health, which is the US Government's principal agency for cancer research and training, addresses this issue in an Antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer fact sheet available through their website.
- Abortion and spontaneous miscarriage - Cancer Australia states unequivocally that there is no link between termination of pregnancy and an increased risk of breast cancer. This includes both induced abortion and spontaneous miscarriage.
- Breast implants - Several studies have found that silicone breast implants do not increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, although silicone breast implants can cause scar tissue to form in the breast. You may have seen media reports suggesting that breast implants used in breast reconstruction may be linked to a very rare type of lymphoma called anaplastic large cell lymphoma. This is an exceptionally rare cancer, affecting only 170 women worldwide to date. This is a potential risk to approximately one in one million women with breast implants.
- Stress - The majority of research to date does not show a link between stress and increased risk of breast cancer. However, there have been some conflicting results. More research is needed in this area.
- Bump or knock to the breast - Research has shown a bump or knock to the breast does not cause breast cancer. However, it can draw attention to an existing lump in the breast.
If you have read or heard something you are unsure about, you can submit a cancer-related question to Cancer Council's iHeard website and they will respond with an answer. If you are still concerned, you may like to talk to your doctor.
For more information, visit Cancer Australia’s webpage on unproven risk factors for breast cancer.