Do Bras Cause Breast Cancer?
Will You Get Breast Cancer?
There's no part of our bodies that we obsess about more than our breasts. Even those of us not prone to health anxiety wonder which, if any, of our everyday habits are upping our odds of getting breast cancer. And it's no wonder we're confused: New scientific reports constantly contradict earlier ones. One week, a new medical study tells us what to eat to prevent breast cancer; the next week, another tells us that diet doesn't make a difference. Is it any surprise even smart women are baffled?
"There are so many conflicting studies out there, it's hard to distinguish between what's valid and what's not," says Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., director of breast and gynecologic cancers at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. So what are real threats to the health of your breasts — and which dangers are just myths? What actually slashes your breast-cancer risk?Redbookwent to some of the country's leading breast experts to get answers. Read on and take control of your breast health today.
And remember: The key moves to help yourself stay safe are to see your ob/gyn every year for breast exams, take note of any changes in your breasts, and follow your doctor's recommendations for mammography screening. If you have tested positive for one of the breast-cancer genes or have a strong family history of premenopausal breast cancer (two first-degree relatives have had it), these recommendations may include consulting with a breast specialist, who will counsel you about how to protect yourself, including the one thing that can prevent the disease: chemoprevention and/or double mastectomy.
1. Mammograms.There's a common misconception that radiation from annual mammograms causes breast cancer. But leading experts say it just isn't so. Mammograms expose you to only about 18 millirems of radiation per exam — the equivalent of two days of normal exposure to natural radiation in our atmosphere, or about four times what you'd get on a routine cross-country flight from New York to Los Angeles, according to the American College of Radiology. "The benefits of having a mammogram far, far outweigh the risks, considering how many lives it saves every year," stresses Rache Simmons, a breast surgeon at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center. Also, today's mammography machines emit significantly less radiation than machines of 30 years ago.
So why the scary rumors? It is true that in superhigh doses (we're talking nuclear meltdown), radiation can lead to cancerous changes in breast tissue. And women who are exposed to very large amounts of radiation during their teen years and early 20s have higher rates of breast cancer, probably because developing breast tissue is more susceptible to its effects. When women in their 30s and older are exposed to radiation, the risk is not as great as it is for younger women, says Simmons. Most women don't receive their first mammogram until age 40, the age recommended by the National Cancer Institute guidelines.
2. Caffeine.Good news: There's no need to skip your daily java fix. Several major studies have found absolutely no link between caffeine consumption and breast cancer. The reason there have been so many studies is that researchers once suspected a connection between caffeine and breast cysts. No link between caffeine and breast cancer has been found, and "even the theory that there was a connection between consuming caffeine and breast cysts has never been proven," says Peter Pressman, M.D., professor of clinical surgery at the New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and author ofBreast Cancer: A Complete Guide.
3. Dairy.Log on to the Internet and you'll find plenty of Websites claiming that the animal fat and hormones in dairy exacerbate breast cancer. "There are rumors that compounds in cow's milk contribute to breast cancer, but there's no evidence to support that," says Saslow. In fact, several studies — including a Norwegian study published inThe International Journal of Cancer— have found that women who drank more than three glasses of milk every day had a lower incidence of breast cancer. So go ahead and keep eating good-for-you dairy products (low-fat is what most doctors recommend for overall health benefits). They may even help decrease your breast-cancer risk.
4. Lumpy breasts.Doctors have a scary name for lumpy breasts: fibrocystic breast disease. But although the word "disease" may induce panic, lumpy breasts are extremely common and not linked to breast cancer. "The majority of women experience lumpiness, tenderness or thickening of the breast tissue throughout the month due to normal hormonal fluctuations; it's not at all unusual," says Ruth Oratz, a breast-cancer oncologist at the New York University Medical Center Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center. "Years ago, before doctors knew a lot about breast cancer, they used to speculate that there was a link between fibrocystic disease and breast cancer, but today we know that's absolutely not true."
In fact, leading breast-cancer researcher Susan Love, M.D., analyzed studies following thousands of women with fibrocystic breast disease and concluded that they had no higher risk of breast cancer than did women who didn't have lumpy breasts. But having lumpy breasts means it's even more important to become familiar with the general day-to-day feel of your breasts. "You need to get a good sense of your breast-tissue texture so you can distinguish between merely fibrocystic changes and an actual new lump," says Pressman.
5. Bras.The bra rumor is based on the hypothesis set forth by husband-and-wife anthropologists in the bookDressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras,in which they claimed that bras — especially underwire bras — constrict lymphatic tissue, allowing cancer-causing toxins to build up. "When I first heard this one, I thought, You've got to be kidding," says Pressman. "Research has proven that bras — even tight-fitting ones — don't interfere with lymphatic drainage at all." There have been many large-scale studies of what increases breast-cancer risk, and none of them have found any connection between wearing a bra and breast cancer.
1. Having one drink (or more) a day.Women who have one alcoholic drink every day up their chances of getting breast cancer by about 9 percent from those of women who don't drink at all, according to a 1998 study done at the Harvard Medical School of Public Health in Boston. "We found that breast-cancer risk increased by about 9 percent for every daily drink consumed," explains study author and Harvard epidemiologist Stephanie Smith-Warner, Ph.D. In other words, regularly downing two glasses of wine a night increases your risk for breast cancer by about 18 percent; three a night raises your risk by 27 percent. So is it safe to drink at all? Yes, in moderation, says Simmons. "I'd recommend limiting your intake to a drink a day."
2. Piling on the pounds.Carrying extra weight means more than being self-conscious in a bathing suit: It may actually up your chances of getting breast cancer. "Women who are overweight tend to have higher blood estrogen levels and higher insulin levels, both of which we believe may promote the development of cancerous cells," explains Oratz. After menopause, being overweight can increase your risk for breast cancer by up to 60 percent, according to one study. (Researchers are still unsure exactly how much weight gain is too much, so check with your doctor.)
And even though menopause is very likely years away, experts say you should lose any extra weight now. "You should really avoid weight gain during your 20s, 30s, and 40s, because it's likely that any weight you put on will carry into your postmenopausal years," explains Deborah Axelrod, M.D., chief of the Comprehensive Breast Center at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center in New York. You should also try to limit pregnancy weight gain to between 25 and 35 pounds: A recent Georgetown University study found that women who gained more than 40 pounds during a single pregnancy faced a 40 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer after menopause. (Women who retained the added pounds after pregnancy were at the greatest risk, regardless of their starting weight.)
3. Being a couch potato.There's plenty of evidence that going out and breaking a sweat can help lower breast-cancer risk. One study at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles found that women who participated in at least four hours of exercise a week during their premenopausal years had a 58 percent lower breast-cancer risk than women who were inactive. Why does exercise reap such positive benefits? Most likely because it decreases the estrogen in the blood. Studies have shown that exercise may increase your body's production of cancer-fighting cells. Aim for at least three 45-minute sessions a week.
4. Postponing motherhood.Women who have their first full-term pregnancy after 30 or never give birth at all are at slightly higher risk of developing breast cancer, notes Saslow. "The more children a woman has, the lower her risk of developing breast cancer — probably because she's not ovulating as much (because of pregnancy) and thus her lifetime exposure to hormones is lower," she explains. Studies also suggest that breastfeeding offers a bit of protection against the disease, particularly against postmenopausal breast cancer. "The benefits may be slight, especially for those who do it for only a short time, but there are so many other health advantages to breastfeeding that we encourage women to do it if they can, for as long as they can," says Saslow.
5. Not eating your broccoli.A few florets a day may keep breast cancer at bay. Research at the Strang Cancer Prevention Center in New York found that women who daily ate a mixture of cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) showed significant reductions in an estrogenic compound believed to cause breast cancer. "These vegetables contain chemicals called indoles, which seem to induce the body to burn off the form of estrogen that promotes breast cancer," explains Axelrod. Try to include these veggies in your diet at least two to three times a week. It doesn't matter if you eat them raw or cooked; researchers believe that their protective benefits are essentially the same either way.
Even leading experts are still scratching their heads over conflicting research in the following areas.
The Pill.A reassuring recent report inThe New England Journal of Medicinefound no link between Pill use and breast cancer. But other studies have found a slight connection. "It appears safe to be on the Pill for around five to 10 years," says Oratz. "But the jury is still out on long-term use."
A high-fat diet.Two recent Harvard Medical School of Public Health studies found that women who ate a low-fat diet weren't any less likely to get breast cancer than women who ate a diet higher in fat. Still other research says that eating monounsaturated fat (such as olive oil) may lower risk.
Sun exposure.Women who live in sunny areas have lower breast-cancer rates than women who don't. The likely reason: The sun's UVB rays enable your body to produce vitamin D, which may reduce breast-cancer risk. But the vitamin D-cancer connection is preliminary, and it's not clear whether you can reap the same effects from fortified foods or supplements.
Video: Breast Cancer | Mammogram | Nucleus Health
How to Train Your Horse for the Farrier
The Biggest Mistake Men Make When Approaching Two Women
Ayurvedic home remedies for premature ejaculation
Coping With Esophageal Cancer
The Best Celeb Hairstyles For Long Hair To Give You Inspo
Men’s Outfits For New Year’s Eve-18 Ideas to Dress Up on New Year
Classic Blonde, Straight Bob Haircuts: Tori Spelling Short Hair
Watch the May 5 SNL cold open below
How to manage curly hair when it seems impossible to deal with
22 Tousled Bob Hairstyles