health

Eight breast cancer myths that are exactly that.

It’s a sad reality that most of us will know, or know of, someone who’s been affected by breast cancer.

Nearly 16,000 Australians will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, but despite growing awareness and education major confusion and misconceptions about this disease still pervades.

To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we consulted the experts to separate fact from fiction – and bust the breast cancer myths that are exactly that.

Myth 1: Having breast implants increases your risk of breast cancer.

Nope.

“Data from large studies, including extended follow up for almost four decades, provide no evidence of increased risk of breast cancer for women with breast implants,” Professor Helen Zorbas, Chief Executive Officer of Cancer Australia, told Mamamia.

“However, a possible association between breast implants and a rare type of cancer called Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma remains the subject of ongoing monitoring and research.” (Post continues after gallery.)

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Myth 2: Only older women get breast cancer.

Unfortunately while a large number of women diagnosed with breast cancer are older, it’s a disease that can affect all ages.

According to the Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA), around five per cent of all breast cancers in Australia are in women between the ages of 20 and 39 years old.

“About 800 women under the age of 40 will be diagnosed in Australia this year,” says Christine Nolan, CEO of Breast Cancer Network Australia.

Myth 3: The type of bra you wear can increase your risk of breast cancer.

A common myth is that underwire in your bra, or wearing a bra at night, is linked to breast cancer.

“Wearing your bra to bed will not cause a girl to develop cancer or stunt her breast growth. It’s also not true that underwire bras cause breast cancer,” Mary L. Gavin MD, Senior Medical Editor told KidsHealth.

The BCNA also maintains there is no evidence to suggest that it increases your risk of breast cancer.
WATCH: Mia Freedman has a bra epiphany. Post continues after video.

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Myth 4: Men don’t get breast cancer.

Unfortunately, this one is also false. According to figures from the BCNA, around 150 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Australia this year.

Myth 5: Most breast cancers run in families.

Thanks to real life examples of women who’ve prevented or tackles breast cancer, like Angelina Jolie, most of us are aware of the importance of knowing our family history when it comes to health, but 90 to 95 per cent of all breast cancers have nothing to do with family history, according to the BCNA.

However inheriting the BRCA-1 gene from someone in your family does impact your risk of cancer.

“A woman with normal BRCA genes has an 11 percent risk of breast cancer, and about a 1.5 percent risk of ovarian cancer,” Dr Brad Robinson wrote recently for Mamamia.

“However, if they DO inherit the BRCA-1 gene, their cancer risks by the age of 70 are a staggering 65 percent for breast cancer and 40 percent for ovarian cancer.”

Myth 6: The survival rate following a breast cancer diagnosis is equal for all Australians.

Also false. According to the BCNA, women living in regional Australia and Indigenous women have lower survival rates than other Australian women.
Listen: Tracey Bevan of the McGrath Foundation on the legacy of Jane. Post continues after audio.

Myth 7: There is nothing you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer.

This is one myth we’re glad isn’t true.

The BCNA reports that “women can keep their risk as low as it can be by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and limiting the amount of alcohol they drink”.

They also advise women between the ages of 50 to 74 can participate in the BreastScreen Australia program for free screening mammograms every two years.

Myth 8: Using deodorant can affect your risk of breast cancer.

Despite claims and studies reported in the media, reputable organisations like Cancer Research UK, American National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the BCNA all say there is insufficient evidence to support a link between antiperspirant use and breast cancer.

Ultimately, the aim is to be aware but not alarmed.

“Breast Cancer Network Australia is concerned about the number of breast cancer myths in the community. The main risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman, getting older and having a family history of breast cancer,” says Nolan.

“If you notice a change in your breast, we encourage you to have a conversation with your health professional. Don’t think breast cancer isn’t a possibility because of your age, sex or cultural background.”

 If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with breast cancer, visit bcna.org.au for free information and support.

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