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Debunking Breast Cancer Myths

Houston, TX - 10/4/2011

Breast cancer awareness has increased over the past decade with walks for the cure, celebrities speaking out about their experiences and proceeds of pink-ribboned products going to breast cancer research. Even with a greater level of awareness, rumors and myths about breast cancer continue to circulate. Dr. Angel Rodriguez, director of the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Clinic at the Methodist Cancer Center in Houston, clears up some common misconceptions about breast cancer.

Myth: Breast cancer is only hereditary.

Fact: While family history plays a part, it is not the only risk factor. Women who have no family history can get breast cancer, and others who have a strong family history may never get it. Triple negative breast cancer is more often hereditary than other types of breast cancers. Talk with your health care provider about women in your family who have had cancer to determine what screenings are appropriate for you.

Myth: Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer.

Fact: Internet rumors have been circulating for years linking antiperspirants and deodorants to breast cancer. The claim is that either harmful substances, such as aluminum, in deodorants leaked into the skin, raising the risk of cancer, or that they block the body's ability to release toxins, causing a build up that ultimately leads to cancer. Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the FDA has found any link between the use of antiperspirant or deodorant to breast cancer.

Myth: Eating fruits and vegetables will cure breast cancer.

Fact: Although eating the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, it does not cure cancer. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, though, so eating them is still a healthy habit to adopt.

Myth: Eating soy causes breast cancer.

Fact: Soy products are low in fat, cholesterol and can be a healthy addition to your diet, but they contain phytoestrogens which can have a weak estrogen effect. Some studies have shown an association with high soy intake and a modestly reduced risk of breast cancer. With all of the existing data, we cannot conclude that there is a definitive effect of soy on breast cancer risk. Although there is no convincing evidence that soy affects risk of recurrence of breast cancer in survivors, due to the theoretical risk that phytoestrogen could stimulate the growth of hormone sensitive breast cancers, avoidance or moderation of soy intake is generally suggested. Talk to your health care professional to find out whether soy is right for your diet.

Myth: Birth control pills cause breast cancer.

Fact: Hormones can affect your likelihood of getting breast cancer, and birth control pills alter the hormones in a woman's body. Studies on the types of estrogen and other hormones used in birth control and their effect on breast cancer have been inconclusive. Epidemiologic studies have generally not demonstrated an association between oral contraption use and the risk of breast cancer later in life. Talk to your health care professional to choose a contraceptive that is right for you.

Myth: All I need to do is my monthly breast self-exam and I will be fine.

Fact: While it is good to examine your breasts monthly and feel for lumps and changes, mammograms are an important step in catching breast cancer early. Women age 40 and older should have a yearly mammogram. Women with a high risk of developing breast cancer can benefit from other screening modalities like breast MRI and ultrasound. Talk to your health care provider to determine if you are at high risk of developing breast cancer.

For more information on the Methodist Cancer Center, visit us online or call 713-790-2700.

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