Top 10 Cancer Myths: True or False?

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

Cell Phones Cause Cancer

cancer patient without hair
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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 2009 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.

Unproven, though the potential risk may prompt you to rethink your habits.

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Hair Dye Causes Brain Cancer

Top 10 Cancer Myths
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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 on May 25, 2005, 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.


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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.

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 diagnosis.


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.


There Is a Cure for Cancer, but Pharmaceutical Companies Are Hiding It

This is one cancer myths 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.

Extremely unlikely

Cancer Is Almost Always Fatal

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


Wearing Antiperspirants and Deodorant Can Cause Cancer.

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


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Some Types of Cancer Can Be 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 Hep C causes liver cancer. Both viruses can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, although Hep C is more often transmitted through blood to blood contact such as sharing needles. Blood transfusions are now tested for Hep C so they don't transmit it.

Some viruses raise the risk of cancer, but cancer is not contagious.

Positive Thinking Will Cure 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.



"Antiperspirants/Deodorants and Breast Cancer" National Cancer Institute, reviewed January 4, 2008. Accessed 12/8/2015

"Cell Phones and Cancer Risk," National Cancer Institute, reviewed June 24, 2013. Accessed 12/8/2015.

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.

"Hair Dyes and Cancer Risk," National Cancer Institute, reviewed August 10, 2011. Accessed 12/8/2015

"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. Accessed 12/8/2015.

Myung SK, Ju W, McDonnell DD, Lee YJ, Kazinets G, Cheng CT, Moskowitz J. Mobile phone use and risk of tumors: a meta-analysis.  J Clin Oncol. 2009 Nov;27(33):5565-72.

Takkouche B, Etminan M, Montes-Martinez A. Personal use of hair dyes and risk of cancer: a meta-analysis." JAMA. 2005 May 25;293(20):2516-25.

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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