Most women (80 per cent) are unclear of what could increase their risk of breast cancer, according to a survey by Bupa Health Clinics, with one quarter of those surveyed believing stress increases the possibility of a diagnosis.
There is no evidence to suggest stress increases breast cancer incidence and unfortunately this is one of many myths floating around – making women worry for no reason.
We spoke to Bupa and charity Breast Cancer Care about the things men and women believe – but shouldn’t – when it comes to breast cancer.
Myth #1 – wearing deodorant can give you cancer.
Bupa’s survey revealed more than two million women believe wearing deodorant can increase the likelihood of a breast cancer diagnosis. But there is no conclusive evidence to prove this.
Some people worry that deodorants and antiperspirants stop the body from sweating out toxins, which then build up in the lymph glands and cause breast cancer. However the body has several ways of getting rid of toxins and, while sweating is one of them, it doesn’t involve the lymph glands, says Breast Cancer Care’s clinical nurse specialist, Rachel Rawson.
“There’s also no conclusive evidence that ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants – such as aluminium or chemicals called parabens – cause breast cancer,” she adds.
Myth #2 – turning 40 increases the risk.
A third of women believe their chances of developing breast cancer increase at 40, according to Bupa. While this is not the case, there is some truth in the link between age and cancer risk: most breast cancers (80 per cent) occur in women over the age of 50 and most men who get breast cancer are over 60.
Myth #3 – wearing fake tan gives you cancer.
More than half a million women believe wearing fake tan can play a part in the probability of being diagnosed with breast cancer, says Bupa. However again, there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.
Fake tan products contain DHA, a substance which reacts with the top layer of skin to change its colour. The evidence so far suggests it’s safer to use a fake tan product than to sunbathe or use a sunbed, says Cancer Research UK.
In 2010, experts at the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety concluded that fake tan products containing DHA are not a health risk.
Myth #4 – underwire bras cause cancer.
Again, this is not the case. There have been concerns that the wires in the cup of the bra may restrict the flow of lymph fluid in the breast causing toxins to build up in the area, says Rawson. However, she says there’s no reliable evidence to support this.
If a bra is too tight or too small, the wires can dig into the breasts and cause discomfort, pain or swelling.
Myth #5 – men don’t get breast cancer.
Many people don’t think of men as having breasts. But in fact both men and women have breast tissue, although men have much smaller amounts.
Around 370 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK (compared to nearly 62,000 women). Most of those affected are over 60, although younger men can also get it.