Separating breast cancer facts from fiction


Knowing the facts about breast cancer treatment and prevention is crucial in reducing your risk. However, there are a number of misconceptions about the disease that can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction.

UCLA oncologist Dr. Parvin Peddi, assistant clinical professor in medicine and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, discusses four myths regarding the most common cancer in U.S. women.

MYTH: No one in my family has cancer so I’m not at risk

FACT: “Less than 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to genetics or linked to genes that you get from your family,” Peddi said. “So just because no one in your family has breast cancer does not mean you cannot get it. In fact, more than 90 percent of breast cancers are not linked to any family history whatsoever.”

Learn more about the risk factors that makes someone a candidate for genetic testing.

MYTH: Sugar causes breast cancer

FACT: “While simple carbohydrates are not good for anyone, sugar does not cause breast cancer or any other cancer in particular,” Peddi said. “Therefore, there’s no reason to completely eliminate sugar from your diet.”

To help protect your health and reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, the American Cancer Society recommends that women eat mostly vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and to cut back on eating red meats, processed meat and sweets.

MYTH: There’s nothing I can do about reducing the risk of breast cancer

FACT: “Actually exercise, maintaining good body weight and limiting the intake of alcohol all have been linked to decreased risk of breast cancer,” Peddi said.

In fact, even just a few alcoholic drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Peddi recommends less than three drinks a week for women to help lower their risk.

Many studies have also found that physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity every week.

MYTH: Early detection of breast cancer won’t change my prognosis

FACT: “When patients come to my clinic with early breast cancer, I can actually help cure them of the disease. When the cancer is discovered at a later stage, the chances of a cure are much less achievable,” Peddi said. “So it does make a difference to get your mammograms on time as recommended to help catch the disease at an early stage.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggests women begin regular mammograms at age 50. The American Cancer Society recommends starting these tests at age 45. Talk with your doctor about the best time to begin mammography screening.

Make an appointment with UCLA Breast Health to receive personalized, multidisciplinary breast health care in a compassionate and supportive environment.