older woman with adult daughters


Busted: Telling breast cancer fact from fiction

Chances are you've heard or read a lot of information about breast cancer, its prevention and its causes. It can be hard to tell fact from fiction. Here are some common statements I hear in my practice and the facts that go with them. 

Busted: Telling breast cancer fact from fiction_infographic 1

"If I don't have a family history of breast cancer, I don't need to worry about developing breast cancer."

In truth, the majority of women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease. Not understanding this can have a negative effect on being screened. Many women delay getting screening mammograms or don't get them at all because they have no family history. Screening mammography is most effective when performed yearly after the age of 40. We know that more lives are saved and the death rate from breast cancer is less when women follow this pattern.

Busted: Telling breast cancer fact from fiction_infographic 2

"Sugar feeds cancer."

There is no data to support that increased sugar intake causes cancer or encourages its progression. However, we do know that keeping weight under control can go a long way in preventing many types of cancer. It's important to get your nutrition from a whole food diet like fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein, as well as fewer processed foods. Coupling a healthy diet with at least 30 minutes of movement each day are the best tools in cancer prevention. 

Busted: Telling breast cancer fact from fiction_infographic 3

"Deodorant and antiperspirants cause breast cancer."

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of deodorant and antiperspirants and the development of breast cancer. 

Busted: Telling breast cancer fact from fiction_infographic 4

"Birth control pills cause breast cancer."

The combination of estrogen and progesterone is associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk. However, most of the research done considers only high-dose version birth control pills. It is less clear if new, low-dose estrogen increases breast cancer risk. It's also important to note that the risk is most often associated with women who begin taking the pill before 20 years old and their risk diminishes when they stop taking the pill. 

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"Hormone replacement therapy does not increase your risk of breast cancer."

It depends. Combined, estrogen and progesterone can increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Information about estrogen-only is less clear and the studies show conflicting evidence. We do know there is a higher risk associated with women who have a longer use of the hormones and who start soon after menopause begins. That risk diminishes after five years of discontinuation.

In 2015, more than 231,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women in the U.S. Understanding the facts, maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle and getting your screening mammograms are all critical steps in the prevention of this disease.


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Busting mammography myths

People avoid mammograms for all kinds of reasons, maybe a lack of knowledge, insurance or access. But often, their decision to put off getting screened for breast cancer isn’t based on facts.

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