15:15 17 October 2007
Breast Cancer Awareness month is an annual event which attempts to let women know the dangers of the disease. Here, we look through the facts and the myths that could help save your life.
Breast cancer deaths have fallen in Britain since the 1980s. However, the mortality rates remain among the highest in Europe, a new study has shown.
An international review of 30 countries led by French researchers revleaed that the UK rate dropped by roughly a third. This success was credited to better care and speedier diagnosis, although the government are still calling for earlier diagnosis.
The number of UK deaths caused by breast cancer fell to 28.2 per 100,000 - equivalent to 12,000 deaths per year.
Cancer Research UK's policy manager Hilary Tovey hailed the "great progress" being made, but feared that it could be a false reading: "The UK has seen greater decreases in the number of women dying from breast cancer than many other European countries over this period, though this is partly because death rates were relatively high in the 1980s."
There are countless rumours about what causes breast cancer - the bra you wear, alcohol, IVF. It's time to sort fact from fiction and to tell you how to reduce your overall risk.
There's a new scare story about the causes of breast cancer every week. No wonder we're confused.
It's no surprise women panic, with 45,500 new cases of the disease diagnosed each year, but we've come a long way in fighting it. 80% of women now live more than five years after a diagnosis.
The fact is, if you eat healthily, stay fit and reduce you alcohol intake you've already cut the risk dramatically. But what claims should you believe and which should be ignored?
1. Deodorant causes it - Verdict: Possible
Research suggests there might be a link between aluminium contained in under arm deodorant and breast cancer.
What to do - use aluminium free deodorants like Dr Hauschka Deo Floral ?8.
2. It is inherited - Verdict: Not true
Only a small percent of breast cancer is inherited. The genes that cause the disease are BrCa1 and BrCa2, those who carry them have an 80% chance of developing it in their lifetime. However, most of the 40,000 women diagnosed early don't carry this gene and the main risk factor is age. At least 80% of breast cancer occurs in post-menopausal women.
What to do - Ask your GP for a blood test to check for the gene.
3. The pill is a trigger - Verdict: Not true
This theory started because the pill contains small amount of oestrogen, which was thought to increase the cancer risk. But recent research found the opposite, in fact the pill may even reduce your chances of developing the disease.
What to do - Continue taking the pill, the study also found it helps protect you from ovarian, bowel and rectal cancer.
4. You must check your breasts every month - Verdict: Not true
Although 9 out of 10 breast cancers are discovered by women or their partners, studies have shown that checking regularly doesn't lead to early detection.
What to do - Use the 5 point breast awareness code. 1. Know what's normal for you. 2. Be aware of changes. 3. Make sure you know what changes to look for and feel for. 4. Report any changes to your GP. 5. Go for routine breast screenings when you're over 50.
5. Breast feeding protects you - Verdict: True
Women who breast feed for at least six months protect themselves from breast and ovarian cancer. The longer you feed the better.
What to do - Try to breast feed for as long as possible and do it with all of your children.
6. An under wire bra increases the risk - verdict: Not true
Dame Gill Oliver, from Cancer Relief told the Daily Mirror: "There is no evidence that wearing any type of bra causes or increases the risk of cancer."
What to do - Purely for comfort get measured properly as 70% of women wear the wrong sized bra.
7. Dairy products can cause it - Verdict: Possible
Jane Plant, doctor and cancer survivor claimed in her book 'Your Life in Your Hands' that cutting out dairy lowers the levels of the hormone and growth factor that feed cancer.
What to do - Eat fewer dairy products and increase the portions of fruity and veg you eat. Studies shoe that five a day reduced the risk by 4%.
8. IVF is a cause - Verdict: Unlikely
A study of over 54,000 women found that there was no increase in breast cancer risk after using fertility drugs
What to do - Don't worry, studies show that having baby whether through fertility treatment or naturally reduces your chances of developing breast cancer.
9. Alcohol - Verdict: True
Alcohol is thought to make breast tissue more susceptible to damage and increase the level of oestrogen in your blood.
What to do - Have no more than two alcoholic drinks a day
10. A lump is the first sign - Verdict: Not true
Other signs include a change in breast size, shape, puckering or a rash, or discharge from the nipples. Most lumps are not cancerous, so if you find one don't panic.
What to do - Learn what's normal for you and keep a close eye on any changes.
To find more contact Breast Cancer Care's free helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit www.cancerhelp.org.uk
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