Breast Cancer: Separating Fact from Fiction

Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Is it true that antiperspirants interfere with lymph circulation and cause breast cancer? Can underwire bras cause breast cancer because they obstruct lymph flow?

These Internet rumors are pure fiction, but how is a woman to know? On October 3, a resourceful tool was announced in pursuit of providing credible breast cancer information to the public on the Internet: a new search engine, Hot Topics. This new tool allows users to navigate through the top breast cancer information requests from women who want to find the best answers to their questions about the disease, such as "What are the best available treatment options for breast cancer?"

Hot Topics Launched

The search engine was launched in honor of the 15th anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) by the Board of Sponsors, a group of 17 national public service organizations, professional associations and government agencies. Hot Topics searches the 17 websites of the Board of Sponsors and is available on the campaign website, The Board of Sponsors developed Hot Topics in response to the potential dangers to public health arising from unsubstantiated information about breast cancer on the Internet.

"When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I did everything I could to educate myself about the disease. I found that there was a lot of information out there that had absolutely no scientific proof behind it," said Sandee Stern, hotline counselor, Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization. "Hot Topics will be a wonderful tool because it will help women find accurate information quickly and easily."

Hazards of Misinformation

Use of the Internet to gather health-related information is increasing. Today, 86 percent of Internet users are researching healthcare or specific disease information, compared to 71 percent in 1998.¹ With approximately 9.5 million sites available (in 1999, up 2.8 million in 1998), retrieving reliable health information can be an overwhelming process.² Many health-related web sites are produced by sources not specialized in healthcare. Only 47 percent of 160 randomly chosen health websites were produced by established health and consumer education organizations. Consumers, sellers, manufacturers and unidentified sources operated the rest.³

"The hazards to my patients of misinformation really relates to doing something bad for their health or more importantly not doing something good for their health," said Dr. Owen Montgomery, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, University of Pennsylvania, and a representative from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at a recent NBCAM conference. "Misinformation can keep them from having an appropriate test like a mammogram if, for instance, they heard on the web that deodorant causes breast cancer."

For the thousands of women who will be diagnosed this year with breast cancer, finding accurate information about the disease will make a difference in how they go about treating it.

"Inaccurate information about cancer is more than just a nuisance. It can lead women to harbor misconceptions and make decisions that seriously jeopardize their health," said Bette Iacino, national coordinator, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign. "Credible information from trusted sources, based on state-of-the-art medical and scientific knowledge will ensure that women follow the best course of action with confidence."

About the NBCAM Campaign

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Through the campaign, seventeen national public service organizations, professional associations and government agencies work together to ensure that the NBCAM message is heard by thousands of women and their families.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, aside from skin cancer. During 2000, an estimated 182,800 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the United States. It is the second leading cause of cancer death, after lung cancer. An estimated 40,800 women are expected to die from breast cancer this year. The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaign is made possible through an educational grant from the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation.

The Board of Sponsors include American Academy of Family Physicians, American Cancer Society, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Radiology, American Medical Women's Association, American Society of Clinical Oncology, AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation, Breast Cancer Resource Committee, Cancer Care, Inc., Cancer Research Foundation of America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO), National Cancer Institute, National Medical Association, Oncology Nursing Society and Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.

To learn more about NBCAM's 15th anniversary, Hot Topics and important information discussed at a recent breast cancer conference, log onto to view a special webcast.