There are few words as terrifying as “cancer.” Adding to the horror is the inaccurate portrayal of the disease in popular television shows, the media, and the World Wide Web. The misleading information and advice about cancer spread all over the Internet could be potentially dangerous. What is more frightening is that there is no way to distinguish between fact and fiction because such information appears legit, thus tricking you into believing it.
Scaremongering is also common on the Internet, where “experts” who have conducted “research studies” claim that almost anything under the sun, from baby bottles to antiperspirant, can cause cancer. These claims are passed around so much and so often that they begin to be regarded as the gospel truth.
These 10 truths about cancer are meant to give you some peace of mind:
#1. Antiperspirants do not cause cancer.
It is incorrectly believed that using underarm antiperspirants raise the risk of breast cancer. Apparently, toxins present in these products enter the body through cuts in the skin made by shaving. It is also claimed that these toxins accumulate in the lymph nodes of the underarm because the antiperspirant prevents their expulsion through sweat.
This is simply not true!
While there are grounds to suggest that parabens and aluminum compounds in antiperspirants are absorbed by the skin or enter through nicks, there is no proof that they cause breast cancer.
#2. Microwaving food in plastic containers does not cause cancer-causing chemicals to leach into food.
It is perfectly safe to heat food in plastic containers that are meant to be used in microwaves. Again, it is true that using takeout containers or butter tubs in a microwave could cause them to melt and their chemicals to leak into the food being heated. Such plastic containers are not meant to be used for heating.
#3. Eating sugar when you are suffering from cancer does not boost cancer cell growth.
The inaccurate belief that eating sugar may accelerate the growth of cancer stems from the mistaken understanding of the way in which positron emission tomography (PET) works. This method employs the use of a small amount of radioactive glucose to find cancer cells. The tumor tissues absorb higher amounts of the radioactive glucose as compared to normal cells and generate more energy.
However, this does not mean that cancer cells will grow faster if provided with sugar. Similarly, starving cancer cells of glucose does not inhibit their growth.
Nevertheless, you need to proceed with caution. A higher risk of developing esophageal cancer has been shown to be associated with the consumption of excessive sugar.
#4. Cancer is not a communicable disease.
The belief that cancer could be transmitted from person to person probably comes from cases of cases of cancer caused by the human papilloma virus or the hepatitis B or C virus.
While the human papilloma virus can cause cervical cancer and is transmitted through the sexual route, the hepatitis B or C virus causes liver cancer and can be transferred either through infected needles or sexual intercourse.
However, this does not mean that you will “catch” cancer if you touch a person suffering from the disease or share food and clothing with the person.
Be kind and supportive. This is the time the sufferer needs you the most!
#5. CA-125 tests should not be used to screen for ovarian cancer.
It is true that elevated levels of CA-125 protein in the blood can signify ovarian cancer. But, you should also know that there are many other harmless reasons for a high reading. Also, all women who develop ovarian cancer do not have high levels of CA-125 protein.
Thus, this marker is not reliable and using it to screen women for ovarian cancer could mean that some women potentially at risk pass the test with disastrous consequences.
Instead, women with a family history of ovarian cancer should get themselves regularly tested.
Changes in CA-125 protein levels are generally used to measure the response of the cancer to the given treatments.
#6. Wearing a bra all day does not cause cancer.
Another incorrect claim about cancer is that wearing a bra all day long presses on the lymphatic system of the breast and causes toxins to accumulate, which leads to cancer.
This erroneous conclusion was drawn by some medical anthropologists, who went ahead and published their “findings” in a book titled, “Dressed to Kill.” But, they forgot to take into consideration factors that are commonly known to cause breast cancer and they did not follow the accepted principles of an epidemiological research study. So, their results are most likely to be flawed.
#7. Wearing lipstick will not cause cancer.
The knowledge that your beloved lipstick can cause cancer must have been heartbreaking. What should make you feel relieved is that this claim is wrong.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug administration, the levels of lead in lipsticks are well regulated. This means that the amount of lead present in our cosmetics does not harm us.
#8. Reusing plastic water bottles does not cause cancer.
You must have read those scary “health” posts that tell you that plastic water bottles contain a substance called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) that can leach into the water, especially if the bottle is heated, and lead to cancer.
Again, not true!
The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that DHEA “is not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans.”
Also, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DHEA “cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer, teratogenic effects, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, gene mutations, liver, kidney, reproductive, or developmental toxicity or other serious or irreversible chronic health effects.”
#9. “Superfoods” cannot prevent cancer.
Before we go ahead and bust the claim that “superfoods” prevent cancer, we’d like to also emphasize that there is no such thing as “superfoods.” The term is simply a marketing gimmick.
Thought up by clever food companies, “superfoods” is a label given to foods like blueberries and broccoli to hoax gullible consumers into believing that their ills will be cured by consuming extracts or other formulations.
However, it is true that green tea, broccoli, blueberries, and such other foods are rich in antioxidants. Consuming them in a balanced manner will certainly help you.
But, no single food has the power to prevent the onset of cancer!
#10. “Acidic” diets do not increase the risk of cancer.
The myth that certain foods can acidify the body is one of the most tenacious ones. It is wrongly believed that eating acidic foods can turn the body too acidic, leading to cancer. Apparently, eating alkaline foods can counter the acidity levels of the body. This theory can be rubbished on several counts.
First, the body cannot be made acidic by eating acidic foods. Human blood is somewhat alkaline and this range is maintained by the kidneys in a systematic fashion. It cannot be changed for a significant period of time because the extra acids or alkalis are removed by the body via urine. Thus, the pH of urine changes if you eat foods rich in acids or alkalis in order to keep the blood pH in the correct range. This observation is the source of the incorrect belief that the body can be made alkaline by tweaking one’s diet.
Second, while it is true that cancer cells cannot survive in a highly-alkaline environment, it is also true that the normal, healthy cells cannot live in such surroundings, either.
Third, eating alkaline foods such as green vegetables is certainly healthful, but not because they counter the effects of acidic foods on the pH of blood. Green vegetables are chock-full of nutrients that benefit the body in many ways.
Fourth, the condition called acidosis, wherein the body’s pH becomes imbalanced, is caused by various causes such as liver failure, excess alcohol consumption, consumption of drugs such as salicylates, or low blood sugar. But, it is certainly not caused by eating acidic foods.
Finally, it is true that the micro environment of cancer cells is acidic due to the way in which they devour oxygen and generate energy. Again, this phenomenon is not associated with one’s diet and cannot be influenced by it.
So, the next time you read an update on a new cancer “finding,” stop and think. Look for the evidence behind the conclusion. Oftentimes, you will find that the research observations have been deliberately misconstrued. Look up authoritative websites, especially those with .org or .gov domains, to learn what is fake and what is not.
Don’t believe everything you hear or read!