Myth busting - the top five cancer myths
Myth 1: Young women are the most likely to develop breast cancer
The risk of breast cancer goes up with age. Most women who develop breast cancer are more than 50 years old and only around two out of every 10 breast cancers occur in women younger than 50. In fact, around a third of breast cancers occur in women older than 70 - so it's important women don't assume they're past it and ignore anything unusual or just put it down to ageing.
Myth 2: You don't need to worry about symptoms if you attend breast screening
Most breast cancers aren't detected through screening - instead they're found in other ways such as women going to their GP after noticing changes. There's no right or wrong way to check your breasts. Get to know your body so you know what's normal for you, which will help you notice if anything's different - but you don't have to do it in a set way or at a set time. And if you do notice any unusual changes that don't go away, get them checked them out by your GP - they're probably down to something much less serious than cancer, but it's better to be on the safe side.
Myth 3: Antiperspirants and plastic bottles cause cancer
Both these rumours started with a hoax email - there is no good scientific evidence to support either of these claims. The emails about plastic bottles generally warn that re-using plastic water bottles, leaving them in the car or freezing them can cause cancer - and they even claim to have come from reputable universities. They don't and there is no scientific evidence any of this is true. In the UK there is legislation to make sure plastic water bottles are safe to use.
Myth 4: Is your bra really a health risk?
Some people have suggested under-wired bras can stop toxins from draining from under your arms and cause breast cancer. But there is no evidence this is the case. Constricting or squeezing any area of the body does not cause it to become cancerous- cancer is caused by damage building up in our DNA.
Myth 5- Dogs can smell cancer
There are many anecdotes of family pets persistently sniffing or worrying at a certain area on their owner, which subsequently turns out to harbour a cancer. All smells - from the pleasant aroma of freshly cut grass to the whiff of Stinking Bishop cheese - are due to molecules diffusing in the air. We know that some cancers (including breast cancer) produce unusual volatile molecules, but no dog would ever be 100% accurate, and there are obviously many complexities of having dogs in the clinic! That's why researchers are working on "electronic noses" which could accurately 'sniff' out these molecules.
It's natural that women want to do everything they can to limit their risk of developing breast cancer- but avoiding plastic bottles and ditching your bra is probably not the answer. Although a healthier lifestyle isn't a cast-iron guarantee against cancer, it can dramatically shift the odds against cancer in your favour. Things like cutting down on alcohol, keeping to a healthy weight and being more physically active all help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Prevention - top three tips to help lower your risk of breast cancer
More than a quarter of breast cancers can be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices. Here are a few simple things you can do to help lower your risk of breast cancer:
Having regular physical activity could help to reduce your breast cancer risk. Aim to do at least two and a half hours of moderate activity each week - but you don't need to do it all in one go. You could do 30 minutes five days a week or you could break it down and do 10 minutes at a time.
Being active doesn't mean you have to join a gym. It includes any activity that raises your heart rate - you should feel warmer and breathe harder - like walking to the local shops or even doing the vacuuming.
Getting active can be challenging, to make it easier you could:
Make exercise a normal part of your day, for example by walking to the train station as part of your commute.
Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalators.
Join forces with friends and family and go for a walk or to the park for a game of tag or football with the kids.
Look after your weight
Being overweight has been shown to increase breast cancer risk in women who've had their menopause. Whatever your age, there are plenty of good reasons to keep to a healthy weight including a lower risk of other types of cancer.
When it comes to looking after your weight, try making small changes that fit into your everyday life - that way you're more likely to stick with them:
Keep to a meal routine. This can help you to avoid unplanned meals and snacks.
Check food labels - chose reduced fat options and healthy snacks. And beware of high salt and sugar levels in foods you might not expect.
Be mindful of portion size and think twice before going for seconds.
Alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer, and six other types of cancer too. Even lighter drinkers, who drink about one alcoholic drink a day, have a higher risk than those who do not drink at all. But overall the less you drink, the lower your risk.
It can be easy to drink more alcohol than you realise, but there are lots of quick and simple ways to help you cut down:
Have more alcohol-free days. If you tend to drink with the same person, like your partner or a colleague, try agreeing on some booze-free days in advance and stick to them together.
Have a shandy instead of a pint of beer, or a spritzer instead of a glass of wine. You could also try to swap every other alcoholic drink for a soft one.
Stand Up To Cancer is a joint national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4 to accelerate new cancer treatments to patients and save more lives. It returns this October with several fundraising events throughout the month, including the Stand Up To Cancer YouTube Party and special programming from Channel 4, such as a celebrity episode of the hit show First Dates, as well as Stand Up To Cancer specials from Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Gogglebox and The Last Leg.