Debunking the Top 10 Cancer Myths

Throughout the years there have been many cancer myths floating around and they seem to surface again and again. Let's separate fact from fiction and bust a few myths.

1
Cell Phones Cause Cancer

Group of people on cell phones
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There is both data supporting this statement as well as against it. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, like those used for cell phones, as possibly cancer-causing. In addition, a notable review of studies concluded that there is possible evidence linking mobile phone use with an increased risk for brain tumors. Researchers, however, noted that studies indicating a higher level of evidence are needed.

Though animal research findings cannot be reliably applied to humans, findings of a prominent 2016 study conducted by the National Toxicology Program (a division of the National Institutes of Health or NIH) found a link between cell phone radiation and low incidences of particular tumors in rats. Findings were in line with previous epidemiological studies of humans.

In releasing these findings, the NIH reminded us, however, that previous human data culled from large-base studies show limited evidence to support this connection. Swedish researchers reviewing separate data on the matter concluded that this risk may be lower than expected or non-existent as well. Though the potential risk may prompt you to rethink your habits, cell phones causing cancer is unproven. 

2
Hair Dye Causes Brain Cancer

There has been a lot of speculation about hair dye and cancer. It has been thought that hair dye caused several different types of cancers like bladder and breast cancer, but there is no evidence of it causing brain tumors.

According to a review of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, hair dye does not increase the risk of developing cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that there may be concern for hairdressers who have frequent exposure, but not for personal use.

3
If Your Mom Has Cancer, You'll Get It Too

While it is true that some cancers are genetic, this does not mean that one will definitely develop cancer because of their heredity. Cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer are a few of the cancers that can be passed down genetically.

If a parent has these cancers, the cancer gene may be passed to their child. If a child inherits the gene, it only raises the likelihood of developing cancer, not guaranteeing a cancer sentence. Risk of some types of cancer may be increased due to genetics, but not others.

4
Cancer Causes Hair Loss

Cancer does not cause hair loss. Hair loss is a side effect of cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Not everyone who has chemotherapy or radiation loses their hair either. Don't rush out to buy a wig after a diagnosis.

5
Only Women Get Breast Cancer

This is by far the biggest cancer myth of all. Men get breast cancer also! An estimated 2300 men will be diagnosed and about 500 will die from the disease this year. Male breast cancer is uncommon, yet still happens.

6
There Is a Cure but Big Pharma Is Hiding It

This is one cancer myth that drives every medical professional crazy! If this is true, then why do loved ones of drug company researchers still die of cancer at the same rate as the general population? What some people don't realize is that many forms of cancer are curable and drug companies are making money off of providing those cures.

7
Cancer Is Almost Always Fatal

Yes, cancer can cause death. But new breakthroughs in early detection have made it much more treatable. It is estimated that 66 percent of cancer patients reach or exceed the five-year survivor mark—and that rate has improved from 40 percent in the 1990s.

8
Antiperspirants & Deodorant Cause Cancer

According to the National Cancer Society, there is no conclusive evidence from recent studies that wearing antiperspirants and deodorant can cause breast cancer. This cancer myth is by far one of the most popular among women.

9
Cancer Is Contagious

No type of cancer is contagious. However, there are two known contagious viruses, HPV and Hepatitis C, that can cause cancer. HPV is a known risk factor for cervical cancer and Hepatitis C causes liver cancer.

Both viruses can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, although Hepatitis C is more often transmitted through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles. Blood transfusions are now tested for Hepatitis C so it doesn't transmit.

10
Positive Thinking Cures Cancer

While maintaining a positive outlook during cancer treatment is essential, it will not cure cancer. Being optimistic helps with quality of life during treatment.

There is no scientific evidence that a positive attitude will cure cancer. However, the National Cancer Institute encourages maintaining positive social relationships and dealing with stress during cancer treatment.

Sources:

"Cell Phones and Cancer Risk," National Cancer Institute. June 24, 2013. 

Deltour I, Auvinen A, Feychting M, Johansen C, Klaeboe L, Sankila R, Schüz. Mobile phone use and incidence of glioma in the Nordic countries 1979-2008: consistency check. J. Epidemiology. 2012 Mar;23(2):301-7.

"IARC Classifies Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields As Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans." World Health Organization Press Release, May 31, 2011.

"Psychological Stress and Cancer," National Cancer Institute, reviewed December 10, 2012.

Wyde M, Cesta M, Blystone C, et al. Report of Partial findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley SD rats (Whole Body Exposure). 2016. 

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