When it comes to scary diseases, there are few more frightening than cancer which can strike at any time and will have touched almost all of our lives in one way or another. While a healthy fear is probably no bad thing if it means we treat the condition with a bit more respect though, this often gets out of hand as is evidenced by the many cancer myths you hear and that are circulating the net. Such rumours can be dangerous if they affect the way you seek treatment, and can interfere with your daily living in other cases.
Here we will look at what some of the more common of these myths and then explain what’s wrong with them. Knowledge is your best defence against any kind of disease and that makes misinformation highly dangerous.
Myth: Smarties cause cancer. So does burned toast.
Truth: Famously blue Smarties were ‘cancelled’ for causing cancer – a result of one of the food colourings used, and I’ve also heard a rumour that burned toast can cause cancer (Google tells me this is because of acrylamide, now you know... ). Now the point is that there is maybe some truth to this in that those substances can cause very marginal additional oxidative damage to the cells. However what you have to remember is that pretty much everything causes some damage to our cells, and the biggest culprit of all is oxygen. Unless you eat twenty packs of entirely blue Smarties and thirty pieces of burned toast every day, you aren’t going to really be any more likely to develop cancer. And anyway, you clearly have a lot of other issues in that case already...
Myth: Vitamins/herbs can cure cancer
Truth: Hopefully a lot of people will be fully aware that vitamins can not cure cancer. Unfortunately though there are also many people out there who aren’t aware of this fact and who believe that vitamin supplementation is an adequate alternative to chemotherapy or surgery. Unfortunately there are many ‘such alternative’ remedies out there which are trying to make a quick buck off of people in a most desperate situation but none of them have any proven benefits (despite the pseudoscience all over the website). Doctors follow only the most scientific methods of treatment and this means that they have been tested and proven effective – unlike the alternatives. If homeopathy or vitamin supplementation worked then your doctor would recommend it and in the UK it would be a lot cheaper for the NHS if they did.
Myth: Living in a city is worse for your chances of lung cancer than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day
Truth: I’m not sure where this rumour began but there’s no truth in it whatsoever. Of course it’s healthier to live in the country, but living in the city is nowhere near as bad for you as smoking even one or two cigarettes a day let alone a whole pack.
Myth: Cell phones cause cancer
Truth: This was a big one a little while back, but slipped off the radar for most of us. Recent studies have shown that there is no truth to this – and in fact one 10 year longitudinal study found that long-term mobile phone users were actually slightly less likely to develop brain cancer.
Myth: Underwire bras and breast implants cause cancer
Truth: Notice a theme here? People like a good panic and this is yet again a scary rumour with no basis in science. It started in a book called ‘Dressed to Kill’, but the study described therein did not follow correct scientific protocol and subsequent studies have debunked the findings. Though silicone breast implants can lead to the formation of scar tissue in the breasts, this doesn’t lead to cancer. The only potential risk of breast implants regarding cancer is that they can prevent you from noticing changes as rapidly and you might need imaging techniques for mammograms.
Myth: Quitting smoking won’t decrease your chances of developing cancer
Truth: Actually as soon as you stop smoking your body starts to heal itself and after a few years you’ll have drastically reduced your risk of lung cancer. More to the point if you carry on smoking, your chances of developing it will increase – so there’s no excuse not to stop right now.
Myth: Cancer treatment means life has to stop
Truth: Many people when asked about cancer treatment are under the impression that it means they have to stop all of their regular activities. The good news is that cancer treatments are becoming ever more practical and most patients are treated on an outpatient basis in the comfort of their own homes with some even continuing work.
Myth: Drug companies and doctors are withholding new cancer treatments
Truth: The various administrations and laws that have been put in place are not part of some conspiracy, but are in fact there to help protect us from potential dangerous and ineffective treatments. Rigorous testing is required before new drugs and treatments can be released to the public, but this all takes time.
Myth: The risk of dying from cancer is increasing
Truth: This is perhaps a good example of our tendency to believe bad news. The reality though in this case is more positive, and actually you’re now much less likely to die from cancer than you would have been at any point in the past.