10/15/2012 06:43 EDT

Breast Cancer Prevention: 6 Common Myths And Facts About Breast Cancer


Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are many facts about what the disease entails — and what it doesn't. There are certainly common questions about the risk factors and prevention measures of breast cancer that are oft-repeated, and we felt we all could use a refresher on the facts.

Breast cancer is strongly influenced by our genetic make-up. About five per cent to 10 per cent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary and caused by abnormal genes passed from parent to child, according to Aside from just genetics, our lifestyle habits can also both prevent and increase the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

In Canada, an estimated 22,700 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,100 will die from it this year, according to the Canadian Cancer Society.

Here are 6 of the most commonly asked questions and facts about breast cancer:

Photo gallery Myths And Facts About Breast Cancer See Gallery

Soy: Good Or Bad?

One of the possible risk factors that is the most controversial in the world of breast cancer are the findings about soy's source of estrogen — which some say can even cause cancer. One thing is certain, the soybean and its derivatives — tofu, soymilk, tempeh (fermented soybeans) — are all interesting alternatives to meat because of their protein content and unsaturated fat levels. But other studies indicate that soybeans are rich in antioxidants known to prevent several cancers, including breast cancer itself. That being said, some studies indicate that it would be safer to consume soy before menopause and women with breast cancer or in remission should reduce soybean consumption or eat in moderation.

Should I Avoid Zinc?

A scientific journal published in Advances in Nutrition in 2011, noted the importance of having zinc in your diet to boost the immune system and our DNA make-up. Until more scientific evidence is found, it would still be a good idea to add zinc-related foods to your dish like oysters, clams, butter sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and legumes.

Can Vitamin D Prevent Breast Cancer?

Well known for its role in calcium absorption, vitamin D has also been the subject of studies for cancer prevention. In the case of breast cancer, some studies have shown that vitamin D can even prevent it. On the contrary, other studies have not achieved the same results. That said, we also know that the treatment of breast cancer chemotherapy causes a loss of bone density in women pre-menopause. This is more of a reason to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin D, especially from October to March, when sunlight is rare. Try foods like fish, — especially canned with bones, milk, yogurt, vegetable drinks fortified with vitamin D, eggs and shiitake mushrooms.

How Much Alcohol Should I Be Drinking?

Several studies have confirmed that women who consume alcohol on a regular basis increase their risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Even one drink a day raises the risk by four per cent. Those who have the habit of drinking three or more drinks a day saw their risk rise to over 40 per cent. That being said, moderation is key for cancer prevention.

What's The Risk Of Being Obese And Having Breast Cancer?

Obesity significantly increases the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly in post-menopausal women. Being diagnosed with obesity at the time of breast cancer was associated with poorer survival, the study added.

Can Breastfeeding Prevent Cancer?

Nursing can possibly help prevent breast cancer and lower it's risks, according to a report by On top of this, one 2002 study found that an estimated 25,000 breast cancers would be prevented in developed countries if women had the same number of children but breastfed each child for six months longer, the CBC reports.