25 Breast Cancer Myths and Misunderstandings (Nos. 21-25)
Getty Images21. Myth: Overweight women have the same breast cancer risk as other women.
Reality: Being overweight or obese does increase your breast cancer risk—especially if you're past menopause and/or you gained the weight later in life.
22. Myth: Fertility treatments increase the risk of getting breast cancer.
Reality: Given estrogen's connection to breast cancer, fertility treatments have come under suspicion—most recently when Elizabeth Edwards's breast cancer recurred. (Shed previously had fertility treatments.) But several studies have found that these prospective moms are likely to have no higher risk of breast cancer. As yet, no large, long-term, randomized studies have eliminated this concern entirely; it merits more research to find a definite answer.
Istockphoto23. Myth: Living near power lines can cause breast cancer.
Reality: A 2003 study aimed at explaining what appeared to be a high incidence of breast cancer in certain counties on Long Island, N.Y., found no link between the disease and electromagnetic fields emitted by power lines. An earlier study conducted in the Seattle area yielded a similar conclusion. Research into potential environmental risk factors is ongoing.
24. Myth: Having an abortion raises your risk of getting breast cancer.
Reality: Because abortion is believed to disrupt hormone cycles during pregnancy and breast cancer is linked to hormone levels, numerous studies have investigated a causal link—but found no conclusive evidence for one.
25. Myth: Breast cancer is preventable.
Reality: Alas, no. Although it is possible to identify risk factors (such as family history and inherited gene mutations) and make lifestyle changes that can lower your risk (reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption, losing weight, getting regular exercise and screenings, and quitting smoking), roughly 70% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no identifiable risk factors, meaning that the disease occurs largely by chance and according to as-yet-unexplained factors. It's crucial, however, to get regular breast exams and mammograms and always consult with your doctor whenever you notice any changes in your breasts. When identified and caught early enough, breast cancer is treatable and very often beatable.
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