5 breast cancer myths explored


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In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the HellaWella team hopes to clear up some common misconceptions and shed some light — and hope — on an illness that affects more than 200,000 people every year.

Myth #1: Breast cancer is a women’s disease. While it is true that breast cancer predominantly affects women — slightly less than 12% of U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime — men are not immune to this illness. If you are a male, your lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.

Myth #2: No family history means you are in the clear. The vast majority (about 85%) of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women with no family history of breast cancer. This means that regardless of your family history, living a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Myth #3: Breast cancer is a disease for those 40 years and older. Though only 6.5% of all breast cancers occur in women younger than 40 years, it is still important for young women to be vigilant about prevention and early detection. This is especially true for women who may have a mutation of the gene associated with breast cancer (BRCA), and those with a family history should consider early testing.

Myth #4: Diet doesn’t matter. This is one of those yes-and-no issues. While research has not found a direct link between eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and breast cancer protection, it never hurts to be healthy, and doing so can keep you at a healthy weight, which is a key factor in prevention. One area that almost all experts agree on, however, is alcohol. The more you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. Women who consume as few as two drinks per day have about 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer than women who don’t drink alcohol.

Myth #5: You can’t survive the disease. Make no mistake, breast cancer is a serious illness, and a diagnosis should never be taken likely. However, it is important to understand that with early detection, the survival rate for breast cancer can be quite high. For example, if caught in the early stages, the five-year survival rate — meaning the expected survival rate for at least five years after diagnosis — is around 90%.