PUBLISHED ON: 5 March 2019

Can being hit in the breast cause cancer? Do deodorants raise your risk? Is there a link between breast cancer and bras?

We dispel 10 of the most common breast cancer myths.

1. breast injuries or being hit in the breast
2. nipple piercings and breast cancer
3. breast cancer in the family
4. underwire and black bras and cancer
5. deodorants and breast cancer
6. men and breast cancer 
7. stress and breast cancer
8. not just a lump
9. drinking warm water from a plastic bottle 
10. mobile phones and breast cancer

1. Breast injuries or being hit in the breast

A breast injury won't cause breast cancer

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

2. Nipple piercings and breast cancer

nipple piercings don't 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.

3. Breast cancer in the family

Most breast cancers don't run in the family

Most cases of breast cancer happen by chance and not because of a family history. Only around 5% of breast cancers are caused by inheriting an altered gene.

Because breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, it’s not unusual to have one or two people in an extended family who have had breast cancer. For most people, having a relative with breast cancer doesn’t increase their risk of developing the disease.

If you’re worried about your family history, you can speak to your GP or call our Helpline.

4. Underwire and black bras and cancer

bras don't cause cancer

Underwire bras don’t increase your risk of breast cancer. And black bras, or any other colour bras for that matter, definitely don’t cause 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.

5. Deodorants and breast cancer

no conclusive evidence that deodorants cause cancer

There's no conclusive evidence that deodorants and antiperspirants cause breast cancer.

Some people worry that deodorants and antiperspirants stop the body from sweating out toxins, which then build up in the lymph glands under the armpit, causing breast cancer. However, our bodies have several ways of getting rid of toxins and, while sweating is one of them, it doesn’t involve the lymph glands.

There’s also no conclusive evidence that ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants – such as aluminium or chemicals called parabens – cause breast cancer.

6. Men and breast cancer 

men can get breast cancer

Some people think men can’t get breast cancer because they don’t have breasts.

In fact, men can get breast cancer. Both men and women have breast tissue, although men have much smaller amounts than women.

Around 370 men are diagnosed each year in the UK (compared to nearly 62,000 women). Most men who get breast cancer are over 60, although younger men can be affected.

7. Stress and breast cancer

stress won't cause breast cancer

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

When we’re under stress, our lifestyle behaviours may change. For example, we might overeat and drink more alcohol. Being overweight and drinking too much alcohol both increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

If you’re feeling stressed, talk to your GP or practice nurse about how you might reduce your stress levels.

8. Not just a lump

breast cancer signs and symptoms

A lump is only one of several possible symptoms of breast cancer and not everyone with breast cancer has a noticeable lump.

It’s important to look at and feel your breasts regularly so you know what’s normal for you, and to tell your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any changes. 

Most breast changes are likely to be normal or due to a benign (not cancer) breast condition, but it’s still important to get them checked.

9. Drinking warm water from a plastic bottle

warm bottled water won't increase your cancer risk

Drinking warm bottled water doesn’t increase the risk of breast cancer.

Some people worry that warming (or freezing) plastic bottles or food containers releases a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) which can interact with our hormones and cause breast cancer.

It’s true that if a plastic bottle or container is exposed to extremely high temperatures, chemicals such as BPA in the plastic are released into the water or food product inside. But the amount released would still be within safe limits and would not cause any harm.

10. Mobile phones and breast cancer

mobile phones don't cause 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. These radio waves are a type of low-energy, non-ionising radiation. This type of radiation also includes visible light, ultraviolet (UV) and infrared radiation.

While it’s not possible to isolate any one factor as a cause of breast cancer, there’s currently no evidence that radio waves from mobile phones cause breast cancer or increase the risk of developing it.

If you have a query about breast cancer, call our free Helpline.

Call our Helpline