Cancer Myths

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on myths about cancer. To get started, studies show that chemotherapy actually enriches Cancer Stem Cells (which are the cells that "give birth" to cancer cells). Knowing this, why is chemo so widely used to treat and prevent cancer when it's causing more cancer in the process?

According to the American Cancer Society, despite popular belief, only 5% of cancers are genetic / hereditary. So much for it being mom or dad's fault!

Although most oncologists tell chemo patients not to eat foods high in antioxidants believing it will "counteract" the chemotherapy treatments, studies actually indicate the exact opposite. Believe it or not, antioxidants can actually help chemo work even better.

Real Time Death Toll as of

Cancer myth could stop patients from getting care?
Cancer causes: Popular myths about the causes of cancer

Cancer myth could stop patients from getting care?

Thirty-eight per cent of patients who responded to a survey in five urban clinics believed the myth that cancer spreads when exposed to air during surgery.

"It may be surprising for some people to hear about this, but it's not surprising to me or for many doctors who confront patients with (cancer)," said lead researcher Dr. Mitchell Margolis, director of clinical medicine at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Doctors administered a voluntary and anonymous questionnaire to 626 patients at Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Charleston, S.C., clinics specializing in lung diseases and lung tumours. The questionnaire was given at five urban outpatient facilities between 1999 and 2000.

The study appears in Tuesday's Annals of Internal Medicine.

Of the 38 per cent who said they believed that cancer spreads when exposed to air, 24 per cent said they would reject lung cancer surgery based on that belief. Nineteen per cent said they would reject surgery even if their doctor told them the belief had no scientific basis.

Margolis - who said he got the idea for the survey after hearing the myth repeated by a "disconcerting number" of patients - said the respondents were largely middle-aged and elderly men.

Asked where they learned about the perceived link, respondents said they couldn't recall or gave vague answers such as "the gossip mill," the study says.

Dr. Alfred Munzer, past president of the American Lung Association, said he had not heard a patient link air exposure to tumour growth, but noted that such "folk beliefs" are not uncommon, especially among minorities, the poor and the uneducated.

"The overall message here is the importance of cultural sensitivity among health care providers in general, a greater awareness of what people's fears are, and being able to listen for them," said Munzer, a lung specialist at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, Md.

On the Net:
Annals of Internal Medicine:
American Lung Association:

Source: Joann Loviglio,  

Cancer causes: Popular myths about the causes of cancer

Teflon cookware: Does it cause cancer?

Scary e-mails circulating on the Internet claim everyday objects, such as plastic and deodorant, are secret cancer causes. Beyond being wrong, many of the myths passed on through forwarded e-mails may cause you to worry unnecessarily about your own health and the health of your family.

Before you panic, take a look at the facts. Here, Timothy Moynihan, M.D., a cancer specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., takes a closer look at some popular myths about cancer causes and explains why they just aren't true.

Antiperspirants or deodorants can cause breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there's no conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants with breast cancer.

Some reports have suggested that these products contain harmful substances that can be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through nicks caused by shaving. According to the NCI, some scientists have also proposed that certain antiperspirant and deodorant ingredients called parabens may be associated with breast cancer because they're applied frequently to an area next to the breast.

Two studies of underarm antiperspirants and deodorants and breast cancer have provided conflicting results:

In 2002, a study involving 1,606 women evaluated the possible relationship between breast cancer and underarm antiperspirants and deodorants. This study showed no increased risk of breast cancer in women who used these products.

A 2004 study found parabens in 18 of 20 tissue samples from breast tumors. Parabens, which act like estrogen in the body, are preservatives used in antiperspirants and deodorants. However, this study didn't prove that parabens cause breast cancer. Also, the study didn't identify the source of the parabens. More research is needed to evaluate whether the use of antiperspirants or deodorants causes parabens to accumulate in breast tissue and whether these chemicals increase the risk of breast cancer.

Unlike lung cancer, for instance, where you see a steady rise in cancer rates when the smoking rate increases, there isn't a clear link between the use of antiperspirants and breast cancer. In the United States today, more than 90 percent of adults regularly use an antiperspirant or deodorant. But the breast cancer incidence rates and death rates for women haven't changed significantly since the 1930s — when, presumably, fewer people used antiperspirants or deodorants on a regular basis. For smoking and lung cancer there is a clear association — women began smoking in larger numbers in the 1940s, and lung cancer deaths rose significantly beginning in the 1970s.

Microwaving plastic containers and wraps releases harmful, cancer-causing substances into food.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), stories have circulated for years about the harm from chemicals in plastics leaching into microwaved foods. There is some evidence that substances used to make certain plastics can migrate into some foods. But the FDA has evaluated the migration levels of these substances and has found them to be well within the margin of safety.

The FDA carefully reviews the substances used to make plastics designed for food use, including microwave-safe plastic wraps and containers. These plastics are classified as "food contact substances." The FDA must find them safe for their intended use before these products can be marketed as such.

Other claims have suggested that plastics contain dioxins, a group of contaminants labeled as a "likely human carcinogen" by the Environmental Protection Agency. But according to the FDA, there is no evidence that plastic containers or wraps contain dioxins.

People with cancer shouldn't eat sugar, since it can cause cancer to grow faster.

Sugar doesn't make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn't speed their growth. Likewise, depriving cancer cells of sugar doesn't slow their growth.

This misconception may be based in part on a misunderstanding of positron emission tomography (PET) scans. Doctors use PET scans to help determine the location of a tumor and see if it has spread.

During a PET scan, your doctor injects a small amount of radioactive tracer — typically a form of glucose — into your body. All tissues in your body absorb some of this tracer. But tissues that are using more energy — exhibiting increased metabolic activity — absorb greater amounts.

Tumors are often more metabolically active than are healthy tissues. As a result, they may absorb greater amounts of the tracer. For this reason, some people have concluded that cancer cells grow faster on sugar. But this isn't true.

Good people don't get cancer.

In ancient times illness was often viewed as punishment for bad actions or thoughts. In some cultures that view is still held. If this were true, though, how would you explain the 6-month-old or newborn who gets cancer? These little ones haven't been bad. There's absolutely no evidence that you get cancer because you deserve it.

Cancer is contagious.

There's no need to avoid someone who has cancer. You can't catch it. It's OK to touch and spend time with someone who has cancer. In fact, your support may never be more valuable.

Though cancer itself isn't contagious, sometimes viruses, which are contagious, can lead to the development of cancer. Two common cancers caused by viruses are cervical cancer and liver cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) — a sexually transmitted disease — can cause cervical cancer. And hepatitis C — a virus transmitted through sexual intercourse or use of infected intravenous (IV) needles — can cause liver cancer, though only a small number of those with the virus will develop liver cancer.

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