MYTHS VS. FACTS: BREAST CANCER

Don't know what's fact or fraud about breast cancer? Read more to find out.

Since 1985, October has been nationally recognized as breast cancer awareness month. Ever since the first known case was recorded around 1600 BC, the number of individuals diagnosed with breast cancer has significantly increased, now affecting every 1 out of 8 women in the United States. Being one the most common types of cancers in the US, it’s important to have a basic understanding of this topic as it affects a large demographic of the population. From the individual level to larger entities and organizations such as Bright Pink and Think-Pink, there is a presence of support towards spreading awareness on prevention and self examination initiatives. While there are many credible sources to receive this helpful information, it’s also important to note that there is false information circulating through mass media that can oftentimes cause people to form misconceptions. Don’t know what's fact or fraud? Here are a few misconceptions that people have about breast cancer, along with the facts that refute them.

 

Myth: Men Cannot Get Breast Cancer

Fact: This is false. Men can also get breast cancer; however, it is true that it is relatively less common for males to be diagnosed. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, only about 1% of people diagnosed with breast cancer are males. In terms of physiology, males are born with a small amount of breast tissue and their growth is inhibited due to the lack of an adequate amount of certain hormones that females have.

Myth: A BRCA Mutation Means You Will Get Cancer

Fact: This is false. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are breast cancer genes that have a role in producing tumor suppressor genes. They aid in genetic stabilization, so if there is a mutation or alteration, any presence of DNA damage may not be repaired properly. These changes could potentially lead to an overgrowth of cells and cause cancer. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, about “69% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by the age of 80” and “40% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA1 mutation and about 26% of women who inherit a harmful BRCA2 mutation will develop cancer in their other breast.” Based on these statistics, having a mutation does not mean you will get cancer. It means you are at a higher risk for breast cancer and potentially other cancers as well. 

 

Myth: You Will Not Get Cancer If No One In Your Family Has Cancer

 

Fact: This is false. Contrary to what many may believe, the American Cancer Society claims that about 5%-10% of breast cancers cases are inheritable - most cases involve no family history of the disease. BRCA genes - altered or unaltered - are inheritable, which means if cancer runs in your family, the genes that were altered can be inherited from the mother and/or father and potentially affect the offspring. To clarify, inheriting altered or mutated BRCA genes does NOT mean you will definitely get cancer - it simply places you at a higher risk than an individual who has inherited an unaltered gene. 
 

References:

 “Breast Cancer in Men.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Aug. 2020, www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/index.htm.

 

 “BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk and Genetic Testing Fact Sheet.” National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/brca-fact-sheet. 

 

“Male Breast Cancer.” National Breast Cancer Foundation, 23 Oct. 2020, www.nationalbreastcancer.org/male-breast-cancer. 

 

 Simon, Stacy. “How Family History Really Affects Your Cancer Risk.” American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society, 1 Nov. 2017, www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-family-history-really-affects-your-cancer-risk.html.

 

EP;, Ruddy KJ;Winer. “Male Breast Cancer: Risk Factors, Biology, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Survivorship.” Annals of Oncology : Official Journal of the European Society for Medical Oncology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23425944/.