Disproven or Controversial Breast Cancer Risk Factors

There are many factors that research has shown are not linked to breast cancer. You may see information online or hear about these disproven or controversial risk factors, but it's important to learn the facts. 

Antiperspirants

Internet and e-mail rumors have suggested that chemicals in underarm antiperspirants are absorbed through the skin, interfere with lymph circulation, and cause toxins to build up in the breast, eventually leading to breast cancer.

Based on the available evidence (including what we know about how the body works), there is little if any reason to believe that antiperspirants increase the risk of breast cancer. For more information, see Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer Risk.

Bras

Internet and e-mail rumors and at least one book have suggested that bras cause breast cancer by obstructing lymph flow. There is no good scientific or clinical basis for this claim, and a 2014 study of more than 1,500 women found no association between wearing a bra and breast cancer risk.

Induced abortion

Several studies have provided very strong data that neither induced abortions nor spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) have an overall effect on the risk of breast cancer. For more detailed information, see Abortion and Breast Cancer Risk.

Breast implants

Studies have not found that breast implants increase the risk of breast cancer, although silicone breast implants can cause scar tissue to form in the breast. Implants make breast tissue harder to see on standard mammograms, but additional x-ray pictures called implant displacement views can be used to examine the breast tissue more completely.

Certain types of breast implants can be linked to a rare type of cancer called anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). It's sometimes referred to as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). This lymphoma appears to happen more often in implants with textured (rough) surfaces rather than smooth surfaces. If ALCL does show up after an implant, it can show up as a lump, a collection of fluid near the implant, pain, swelling or asymmetry (uneven breasts). It usually responds well to treatment.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2015-2016. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2015.

Chen L, Malone KE, Li CI. Bra wearing not associated with breast cancer risk: A population-based case–control study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014;23(10):2181-2185.

US Food and Drug Administration. Breast Implants: Update - Breast Implant-Associated Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma (BIA-ALCL). 2017. Accessed at www.fda.gov/safety/medwatch/safetyinformation/safetyalertsforhumanmedicalproducts/ucm547622.htm on August 4, 2017.

 

Last Medical Review: September 6, 2017 Last Revised: September 6, 2017

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