Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

Cancer is not only a deadly disease; it is a sensitive topic too. It creates a stir not only in the patient but amongst their loved ones too – both emotionally and financially. Hence, it is very important to know about the facts relating the same. Misleading data might cause uncalled for situations eventually hindering good prevention and treatment decisions. Here below, we clarify some of the common myths and misconceptions regarding cancer.

1. Is cancer a death sentence?

The most common misconception people dwell with is cancer is always deadly – which is not true. With the progress in medical science, the chances of dying with cancer have reduced. Five-year survival rates for some cancers, such as breast, prostate, and thyroid cancers, now are 90 percent or better. The 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined is currently about 67 percent. However, the span of an individual cancer patient will depend on many factors, including whether the cancer is slow or fast growing, how much the cancer has spread in the body, whether effective treatments are available, the person’s overall health, and more.

2. Will eating sugar make my cancer worse?

No. Although research has shown that cancer cells consume more sugar (glucose) than normal cells, no studies have shown that eating sugar will make your cancer worse or that, if you stop eating sugar, your cancer will shrink or disappear. However, a high-sugar diet may contribute to excess weight gain, and obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer.

3. Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

No. Researchers have conducted studies on the safety of the artificial sweeteners (sugar substitutes) saccharin; cyclamate; aspartame; acesulfame potassium; sucralose; and neotame and found no evidence that they cause cancer in humans. All of these artificial sweeteners except for cyclamate have been approved.

4. Is cancer contagious?

In general, no. Cancer is not a contagious disease that easily spreads from person to person. The only situation in which cancer can spread from one person to another is in the case of organ or tissue transplantation. A person who receives an organ or tissue from a donor who had cancer in the past may be at increased risk of developing a transplant-related cancer in the future. However, that risk is extremely low—about two cases of cancer per 10,000 organ transplants. Doctors avoid the use of organs or tissue from donors who have a history of cancer.

5. Does my attitude—positive or negative—determine my risk of, or likely recovery from, cancer?

To date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that links a person’s attitude to his or her risk of developing or dying from cancer. If you have cancer, it’s normal to feel sad, angry, or discouraged sometimes and positive or upbeat at other times. People with a positive attitude may be more likely to maintain social connections and stay active, and physical activity and emotional support may help you cope with your cancer.

6. Can cancer surgery or a tumor biopsy cause cancer to spread in the body?

The chance that surgery will cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is extremely low. Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors.

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7. Will cancer get worse if exposed to air?

No. Exposure to air will not make tumors grow faster or cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

8. Do cell phones cause cancer?

No, not according to the best studies completed so far. Cancer is caused by genetic mutations, and cell phones emit a type of low-frequency energy that does not damage genes.

9. Do power lines cause cancer?

No, not according to the best studies completed so far. Power lines emit both electric and magnetic energy. The electric energy emitted by power lines is easily shielded or weakened by walls and other objects. The magnetic energy emitted by power lines is a low-frequency form of radiation that does not damage genes.

10. Are there herbal products that can cure cancer?

No. Although some studies suggest that alternative or complementary therapies, including some herbs, may help patients cope with the side effects of cancer treatment, no herbal products have been shown to be effective for treating cancer. In fact, some herbal products may be harmful when taken during chemotherapy or radiation therapy because they may interfere with how these treatments work. Cancer patients should talk with their doctor about any complementary and alternative medicine products—including vitamins and herbal supplements—they may be using.

11. If someone in my family has cancer, am I likely to get cancer, too?

Not necessarily. Cancer is caused by harmful changes (mutations) in genes. Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are caused by harmful mutations that are inherited from a person’s parents. In families with an inherited cancer-causing mutation, multiple family members will often develop the same type of cancer. These cancers are called “familial” or “hereditary” cancers.

12. If no one in my family has had cancer, does that mean I’m risk-free?

No. Based on the most recent data, about 38 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lives. Most cancers are caused by genetic changes that occur throughout a person’s lifetime as a natural result of aging and exposure to environmental factors, such as tobacco smoke and radiation. Other factors, such as what kind of food you eat, how much you eat, and whether you exercise, may also influence your risk of developing cancer.

13. Do antiperspirants or deodorants cause breast cancer?

No. The best studies so far have found no evidence linking the chemicals typically found in antiperspirants and deodorants with changes in breast tissue.

14. Does hair dye use increase the risk of cancer?

There is no convincing scientific evidence that personal hair dye use increases the risk of cancer. Some studies suggest, however, that hairdressers and barbers who are regularly exposed to large quantities of hair dye and other chemical products may have an increased risk of bladder cancer.