Can That Really Give Me Breast Cancer?by Rebecca Schwarz
published October 28, 2009
You’ve probably heard that antiperspirants and underwire bras can increase your risk of developing breast cancer. Perhaps you’ve been told not to take the pill, too. Divine.ca, in honour of October Breast Cancer Awareness month, has gathered the latest facts on what does and doesn’t augment your likelihood of developing the disease.
You may have received an email from a well-intentioned friend, alerting you to the dangers of using antiperspirants. The claim? Chemicals in these products are absorbed into the skin, where they interfere with lymph circulation, causing toxins to build up in the breast, and eventually leading to cancer. The truth? Chemicals in products such as antiperspirants are tested systematically to ensure safety. One small study recently uncovered trace levels of parabens (used as preservatives in antiperspirants) in a small sample of breast cancer tumours. However, the study did not determine whether the parabens caused the tumours. More research is needed to determine what role, if any, parabens could play in breast cancer risk. You may be reassured to know that a recent, large study of breast cancer causes found absolutely no increase in the disease among women who used antiperspirants.
Birth control pills
Current birth control pills contain a low dose of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Numerous research studies have failed to find an association between birth control pills and an increased risk of breast cancer. However, one study combining the results of various studies did reveal a link between birth control pills and a very slight elevation in risk. The study also demonstrated that this slight increase in risk declined over time. This means that after a ten-year period, birth control pills were no longer associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Birth control pills also provide certain benefits, including a decrease in the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer.
Ultimately, each woman must weigh the risks and benefits before choosing oral contraception. Do consult your doctor if you’re not sure.
Even if there is no history of breast cancer in your family, that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk. Many women who are diagnosed had no prior family history of the disease. The single greatest risk factor? Increasing age, which is why mammograms are recommended for women aged 40 and over. However, breast cancer does occur in young women, too, so it’s important to check your breasts regularly and stay informed about lifestyle changes that can decrease your risk of developing the disease.
If you do have a family history of breast cancer, your risk may be slightly, greatly, or not at all elevated. If you have any concerns bring them to your physician. And remember to pay attention to your family’s medical history on both sides. Click here for a Breast Self-Exam reminder that can be sent directly to your email.
Internet rumours and at least one book have suggested a link between underwire bras and breast cancer. Is it true? Absolutely not, according to the American Cancer Society. There is no clinical or scientific evidence that underwire bras obstruct lymph flow, as has been claimed.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your risk for breast cancer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your physician—she can answer your questions, and give you valuable prevention tips.
So far, there’s no conclusive evidence that exposure to pesticides can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. However, some researchers have identified a greater breast cancer risk for women with higher levels of pesticides in their breast tissue. If you’re concerned, purchase locally-grown or organic produce, and read the labels to ensure your food is pesticide-free.