Debunking common breast cancer myths
Cancer claims the lives of millions of people across the globe every year. But the fight against cancer is anything but hopeless, as the World Health Organization notes that between 30 and 50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable.
Learning about cancer is one of the best ways for people to protect themselves from this deadly disease. Researchers continue to learn more about cancer everyday and routinely discover that information once thought to be accurate was actually off-base.
Despite researchers’ best efforts, some myths about cancer still prevail. Some of these myths are about cancer in general, while others refer to specific cancers, including breast cancer. Myths about breast cancer can be as harmful as accurate information is helpful, so learning the truth and debunking those myths can be an important part of women’s preventive approach to breast cancer.
• Myth: Drinking milk increases your risk for breast cancer. The American Cancer Society notes that early studies raised concerns that drinking milk from cows treated with hormones could increase a person’s risk for breast cancer. However, ensuing research failed to find a clear link between the two. In fact, a 2002 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found no significant association between dairy fluid intake and breast cancer risk.
∫ Myth: Lumps indicate breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.® says that only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. However, abnormalities or changes in breast tissue should always be brought to the attention of a physician.
∫ Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer to spread. This myth is rooted in the incorrect notion that breast compression while getting a mammogram causes the cancer to spread. However, the NBCF insists that cannot happen. In fact, the National Cancer Institute touts the benefits of mammograms while the ACS recommends women between the ages of 45 and 54 get mammograms every year. For additional breast cancer screening guidelines, visit the ACS at www.cancer.org.
∫ Myth: Women with a family history of breast cancer are likely to develop breast cancer, too. This myth is dangerous because, if taken at face value, it can give women with no family history of breast cancer a false sense of security. However, the NBCF notes that only about 10 percent of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that a woman’s risk for breast cancer is higher if she has a first-degree relative, including a mother, sister, daughter, or even a male family member, who have had the disease. But breast cancer can affect anyone, regardless of their family history.
Information is a valuable asset in the fight against breast cancer. Learning to decipher between accurate and false information can be especially valuable.