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BODY WATCH

Facts About Bras, Breasts and Cancer

June 19, 1996|KATHLEEN O. RYAN

* The breast is actually a modified sweat gland; breast milk is a modification of sweat.

* Breasts are constructed of tissue sandwiched between layers of fat that cannot be built up like muscle through exercise.

* The breasts of girls and boys are identical until puberty.

* Uneven breasts are the norm.

* Bras do not keep breasts from sagging, which is caused mostly by age and pregnancy.

* Breasts produce milk 48 to 72 hours after birth.

* Breast-feeding does not prevent cancer.

* Breast texture and tissue change constantly throughout a lifetime; 90% of woman have fibrocystic changes, or bumpiness, in their breasts.

* Noncancerous lumps do not increase the risk for breast cancer.

* Of all the breast biopsies done in this country, 80% of findings are not cancerous.

* Breast pain is rarely a sign of breast cancer.

* By the time breast cancer is detected, it has been there eight to 10 years.

* The greatest risks for getting breast cancer are age and being a woman; the next greatest risk is family history.

* 70% of breast cancer patients have no risk factors.

* The longer a woman menstruates in her lifetime, the higher her risk for breast cancer.

* 23% of women found to have breast cancer are younger than 50.

* After menopause, half of all breast lumps are cancerous; fewer than 10% of pre-menopausal lumps are cancerous.

* One out of every eight women in the United States gets breast cancer.

* Mammograms are more effective in older women because the proportion of fat to tissue increases with age, making breasts less dense.

* This year, breast cancer is expected to strike 1,400 men in the United States; of those, 260 are expected to die of the disease.

Sources: Dr. William Hindle, director, Breast Diagnostic Center, Women's Hospital, County-USC Medical Center; Dr. Susan Love, adjunct / associate professor of clinical surgery at UCLA; "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book" (Addison Wesley, 1995); Carol Ann Friedman, RN; American Cancer Society; American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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