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10 common breast cancer myths dispelled

Does deodorant cause breast cancer? Can wearing an underwire bra increase your breast cancer risk? We dispel 10 common myths about breast cancer causes.

1. Does deodorant cause cancer?

Using deodorant or antiperspirant does not cause breast cancer.

Claims that deodorants or antiperspirants increase your risk of breast cancer have been around for several years.

Some people have also claimed that aluminium in antiperspirants can increase your risk.

However, there’s no convincing evidence of a link between breast cancer and deodorants, antiperspirants or their ingredients.

2. Do underwire bras cause breast cancer?

Underwire bras do not increase your risk of breast cancer. 

There have been some concerns that the wires in the cup of underwire bras may restrict the flow of lymph fluid in the breast causing toxins to build up in the area. However, there’s no reliable evidence to support this.

If your bra is too tight or too small, the wires can dig into your breasts and cause discomfort, pain or swelling. Find out more about wearing a well-fitting bra.

3. Can squeezing or being hit in the breast cause cancer?

An injury, such as falling or being hit in the chest, will not cause breast cancer. Squeezing or pinching the breast or nipple will not cause breast cancer either. 

It may cause bruising and swelling to the breast, which can be tender or painful to touch.

Sometimes an injury can lead to a benign (not cancer) lump known as fat necrosis. This is scar tissue that can form when the body naturally repairs the damaged fatty breast tissue.

4. Does stress cause cancer?

There’s no conclusive evidence that stress increases your risk of breast cancer.

A number of studies have looked at the links between stress and breast cancer, but there isn’t enough evidence to show a clear association. 

Stress can be linked to a rise in other lifestyle behaviours, such as being less active or drinking alcohol, which could increase your risk of breast cancer.

5. Can nipple piercing cause breast cancer?

Nipple piercings have become a popular trend. But there’s currently no evidence that having pierced nipples increases the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

However, the area pierced is at risk of infection, at the time of the piercing and as long as you wear the jewellery, possibly even longer.

6. Do mobile phones cause breast cancer?

There’s no evidence that radiation from mobile phones has any effect on your risk of developing breast cancer.

Some people worry that radio waves produced and received by mobile phones may be a health risk, especially if they keep their phone in their breast pocket.

However, there’s currently no evidence that radio waves from mobile phones cause breast cancer or increase the risk of developing it.

7. Can IVF cause breast cancer?

There’s no evidence that having IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment affects your risk of breast cancer.

Current evidence suggests women who have received IVF treatment are no more likely to develop breast cancer than women who have not had IVF. However, IVF is a relatively new procedure and more research is needed to be sure of all the long-term health effects.

8. Does abortion increase the risk of breast cancer?

Having an abortion does not affect your risk of developing breast cancer.

Some previous research on abortion suggested it might increase your risk of breast cancer. But several well-designed studies from recent years have shown this is not the case.

9. Can chemicals in the environment cause breast cancer?

There’s no conclusive evidence that exposure to chemicals in the environment increases your risk of breast cancer.

Lots of studies have looked at the relationship between breast cancer and chemicals in the environment such as pesticides, traffic fumes and plastics, but there’s no clear evidence of any links.

It can be very difficult to work out the effects of individual chemicals when we are exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals during our lifetime.

Some studies have suggested that women who are exposed to chemicals in their jobs, for example in the manufacturing industry, may be at higher risk of breast cancer. But the evidence is weak and more research is needed. Employers are legally required to limit exposure to chemicals that may cause cancer.

10. Can working night shifts cause breast cancer?

Although it was previously thought working night shifts may increase breast cancer risk, the latest research has found people who work night shifts are at no greater risk of breast cancer than those who don’t. 

This is the case regardless of the type of work and the age someone starts night shifts.

We offer free talks to workplaces and community groups by trained staff and volunteers. The talks cover topics such as the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as dispelling common myths and misconceptions.

Book a talk

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Quality assurance

Last reviewed in February 2022. The next planned review begins in February 2023.

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