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September 9, 2020

12 Common Cancer Myths

12 Common Cancer Myths

The internet can be a very useful tool for gathering information about cancer. However, too much information, especially conflicting information, can lead to confusion and even fear. While there are indeed certain factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, there are other factors that don’t. Keep reading to learn more about these 12 common cancer myths and misconceptions.

Myth #1: A cancer diagnosis means the end of life.

Fact: Cancer has never been considered a death sentence and survival rates are growing. The good news is that the death rate due to cancer in the U.S. has dropped 29% in the last 25 years and the 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined is holding steady at around 67%. Major factors in this change include reduced smoking rates, early detection, and early treatment. Other factors that affect survival rates include the types of treatment available and how much cancer has spread.

Myth #2: Cutting sugar intake will cure cancer.

Fact: There is not a direct connection between sugar and cancer. While cancer cells do consume more glucose than normal cells, reducing or cutting out sugar in itself will not shrink cancer cells. With that said, there is an indirect connection between sugar and cancer in that high sugar intake can lead to obesity which is linked to increased risk of cancer.

Myth #3: Artificial sweeteners contribute to cancer.

Fact: Artificial sweeteners don’t contain chemicals or other ingredients that increase the risk of cancer. In fact, most of them have been approved by the FDA. Questions about artificial sweeteners and cancer arose when early studies showed that cyclamate in combination with saccharin caused bladder cancer in laboratory animals. However, studies have not found solid evidence that these sugar substitutes affect humans in the same way. They are simply a way to sweeten foods without sugar.

Myth #4: Cancer cures are being withheld from the public.

Fact: The FDA and cancer care teams around the world are continuously making advances in the fight against cancer. With that said, treatments take time as they have to go through rigorous safety tests to ensure they aren’t dangerous. Creating medicines that are safe as well as effective often means they are slow to get to market. It has nothing to do with theories such as government population control through disease or restriction of funding.

Myth #5: Surgical procedures, including biopsies, will cause cancer to spread.

Fact: Early diagnosis is one of the best defenses against cancer and avoiding tests and treatment can result in a poorer outcome. A popular belief among some people is that cancers exposed to air or punctured by a needle or during surgery will spread to other tissue. However, there is no scientific data that supports this idea of cancer spreading after being exposed to air. Furthermore, surgeons take preventative measures to keep cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body during surgery.

Myth #6: Cancer is a man-made, modern disease.

Fact: Mankind has created a lot of things, both good and bad, but cancer isn’t one of them. Believe it or not, cancer existed long before we can imagine— as far back as the age of the dinosaurs. Recently, the femur of a 240 million-year-old ancestor to turtles was discovered with evidence of bone cancer. However, with greater life expectancy and better tools, cancer appears to be more prevalent in today’s day and age.

Myth #7: Smartphones cause cancer.

Fact: No current data exists to support the idea that cell phones are capable of causing cancer. Cancer is caused by gene mutations and low-frequency energy emitted by cell phones doesn't mutate genes. Multiple studies have been conducted about the link of cell phones to cancer and no connection has been discovered.

Myth #8: Cancer is contagious.

Fact: Cancer cannot be passed from person to person. With that said, people who have a family history of cancer could be at a higher risk of developing the disease. There is an extremely low chance that the recipient of an organ transplant may contract cancer from donor tissue— but to keep that from happening, surgeons avoid using organs of patients with a history of cancer. Certain viruses that cause cancer, such as HPV, can be transmitted from one person to another. The cancer itself, however, is not contagious.

Myth #9: Our advancement in technology should be able to cure cancer by now.

Fact: Cancer is a complicated disease that is harder to study due to its constant mutation of healthy cells. In fact, the word cancer is used to describe over 100 related diseases which often have different properties. Major advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer due to modern technology, but there is still much to learn.

Myth #10: You’re not at risk if your family history is cancer-free.

Fact: Only a small portion of cancers are hereditary. In fact, only 5% to 10% of cancers are passed from parents to children. Genetic mutations usually caused by environmental factors and lifestyle choices are the most common causes of cancer.

Myth #11: Superfoods can stop cancer.

Fact: A nutritious diet can certainly improve the way you feel, but it cannot remove cancer from your system. In general, a diet full of raw fruits and vegetables is a great way to support a healthy lifestyle, which can help you prevent obesity and other cancer risks. Superfoods are simply healthy choices not foods with superpowers.

Myth #12: Certain personal care products cause cancer.

Fact: There is little evidence to suggest that a person’s cancer risk is increased by using personal care products, such as cosmetics, deodorants, and hair dyes. While certain ingredients in various products such as these could cause health problems, there are no long-term studies that show a connection between them and cancer. Since there is still much to learn in this area, the American Cancer Society encourages continued and expanded scientific research on the potential links between cosmetic use and cancer risk.

Knowledge is power, and eliminating common myths is one way of spreading knowledge. Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any concerns regarding your personal cancer risk.

Categories: General Cancer