The use of deodorant is a risk factor for developing cancer?

Over half of the people in our survey were unsure about this. Many people believe that the use of underarm antiperspirant can cause breast cancer. Antiperspirant contains aluminium compounds and chemicals called parabens which are believed to cause cancer. However, to date there is no conclusive evidence to link deodorant to breast cancer.

Advice: For people who are still concerned you can use a deodorant that does not contain those chemicals.

Using cell phones/mobile phones increases the risk of developing cancer?

A third of the people surveyed believed that mobile phone increased the risk of cancer. Research carried out on cells, animals and humans has shown to date that there is no conclusive evidence linking mobile phone usage to cancer. Some expert organizations say that radio-frequency fields are “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Others say there could be some risk associated with cancer but the evidence is not strong enough to be considered causal and needs further investigation. Currently there are studies underway looking at this issue.

Advice: If you are concerned about this it is advised that you:

  • Limit your mobile phone usage to shorter calls when a landline is not available.
  • Use a hands-free device to put more distance between your head and the phone.
  • Limit use of mobile phones by children.

Women using hormonal contraceptives are at increased risk of developing cancer?

43% of the people surveyed believed that using hormonal contraceptives increased the risk of developing cancer. Studies looking at the association between hormonal contraceptives and cancer risk are not consistent. However, the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer appears to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives whereas the risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer appears to be increased.

Advice: If you are concerned about this it is advised that you discuss this with your GP or family planning clinic.

Using condoms protect against developing cancer?

The HPV (human papillomavirus) is known to cause cervical cancer. Using condoms helps protect against sexually transmitted HPV but condoms are unlikely to provide complete protection against virus spread.

Advice: Correct and consistent use of condoms can reduce transmission of HPV between sexual partners. A quarter of the people surveyed did not know this.
For women: Talk to your GP/women’s centre about routine cervical smears. For young people-talk to your GP to determine if it is appropriate for you to get the HPV vaccine.

Wearing an under-wire bra is a risk factor for developing breast cancer?

Almost 60% of people in our survey were unsure about this. Scientific evidence does not support a link between wearing an underwire bra and breast cancer risk. Being overweight does increase your risk of breast cancer however and women who are overweight are more likely to have larger breasts and wear a bra. Women who don’t wear bras are more likely to be a healthy weight and this difference in weight is possibly why this myth continues.

Wearing perfumes/aftershave/cologne/cosmetics increases the risk of developing cancer?

Half of the people in our survey were unsure about this but 42% of the people surveyed knew that this was not the case. There are no long term studies examining this so little is known about the long-term effects on health and cancer risk. To date, there is little evidence that using these products can cause cancer.

Woman who breast feed are at increased risk of developing breast cancer?

Almost 2/3 of the people surveyed correctly knew that breast feeding did not increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Research has shown that breast feeding actually can slightly reduce your risk of developing some breast and ovarian cancers. The level of protection increases with length of time you breast feed and the more children you have. The rate of breast cancer is lower among women who breast feed multiple children over longer periods of time.

Advice: Although it is not clear how much breastfeeding may impact your risk of cancer, it has many other advantages for mothers and especially for babies. It is recommended that women breast feed their children for the first 6 months, and continue breastfeeding for a year or longer as other foods are introduced.

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) protects against breast cancer?

Not surprisingly, because this one can be confusing, over 60% of the people surveyed were unsure about HRT and its link with cancer risk.

There are two types of HRT, ‘oestrogen only HRT’ and oestrogen and progesterone HRT which is called ‘combined HRT’.

Endometrial cancer:
If you have had a hysterectomy, oestrogen only HRT may be prescribed-this can increase your risk of cancer of the endometrium (womb lining). You will not be prescribed oestrogen only HRT unless you have had a hysterectomy.

Ovarian Cancer: Research studies have shown that taking HRT can increase your risk of developing ovarian cancer. The longer you take HRT the more the risk you have. But if you stop the risk goes back down after a few years.

Breast cancer: Research has shown that HRT does increase your risk of developing breast cancer, combined HRT more so than oestrogen only HRT. Again, the longer you take HRT the higher the risk but after stopping it for 5 years your risk goes back to normal.

Advice: If you are concerned about this it is advised that you discuss this with your GP or family planning clinic.

Men who have a vasectomy (i.e., sterilisation) are at increased risk of developing cancer?

This can be unclear and consequently 70% of people surveyed were unsure about this. But a new study from Harvard School of Public Health released in July 2014 has shown that there is an increased risk of prostate cancer, and a stronger risk for advanced prostate cancer in men who have had a vasectomy. More research is required in this area.

Getting bruised/injured is a risk factor for developing cancer?

One quarter of the people surveyed believe getting bruised or injured is a risk factor for developing cancer. It has been noted that many people report that they believe a previous injury such as a bruise contributed to their cancer. There is no evidence to support this link. It usually happens that a person goes to their GP after sustaining an injury and on examination a cancer is found. However, the injury would not have caused this. The cancer was most likely there before the injury occurred.

Working night shift is a risk factor for developing cancer?

There is a limited amount of research done in this area and so not surprisingly about half of the people surveyed were unsure about this. There has been some research which supported the link between people who work night shift and their increased risk of developing cancer. However, it is possible that the lifestyle associated with working night shift may contribute to this increased risk (i.e. smoking and diet). Adequate sleep is important for general health. More research is required in this area to make definite conclusions.

Advice: Get adequate sleep to feel rested and as well as possible. If you work night shift it is important to maintain healthy lifestyle behaviours overall.


In our survey we asked people about stress and how it relates to cancer. We asked people if they thought feeling stressed increased their risk of developing cancer- an overwhelming 80% believed that it did. We also asked if they tried to reduce or avoid stress since their cancer diagnosis- again 84% said they did.

Although stress can cause various health problems, the evidence that it can cause cancer is actually very weak. Apparent links between stress and cancer can present in different ways. However, it is most likely the behaviours people develop when stressed like smoking, over-eating or unhealthy eating, or drinking alcohol that increase a persons risk of developing cancer.

Whether or not you have had cancer if you are stressed and need help some of the following may help:

  • Talk to someone-a family member, a friend, a health care professional
  • Attend a cancer support or education group
  • Relaxation or meditation
  • Exercise
  • Medication for depression or anxiety
  • Counselling

There is advice throughout this App on how to deal with the behaviours that may stem from feeling stressed. There is also contact information throughout this App for the Irish Cancer Society who can offer advice and point you in the right direction.

A Word About Water….

In our study, people had the opportunity to identify other things that they believed caused cancer. Some of the things identified were environmental factors as opposed to lifestyle factors; however water emerged as a concern for a significant amount of people. Fluoridation of water was identified as a concern as well as the pipes that deliver the water and the quality of our drinking water.

Regarding fluoridation of water, all systematic reviews/research to date have found no association between fluoridation of drinking water at the recommended levels and risk of cancer. The effects of fluoride on health and related matters are kept under constant review.

It is beyond the scope and purpose of this App to talk about water quality and pipes but if you want further information please click on the links below:

Information on Water Quality

In A Nut Shell:

To reduce your risk of cancer from your lifestyle is actually quite simple:

  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise more
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol or don’t drink alcohol
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight
  • No need for supplements/vitamins for cancer prevention

Just released in October 2014 is the European Code Against Cancer which outlines that the risk of having cancer can, to a certain extent, be reduced by adopting healthier lifestyles, and outcomes greatly improved if cancer is detected early on. The European Code Against Cancer (2014) provides key information through its 12 recommendations.