10 Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

August 19, 2020

10 Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

Thanks to the internet, a lot of misinformation is being spread about cancer and cancer treatments. Let’s take a look at the latest evidence-based data to clear up some common myths and misconceptions.

1. Cancer is the end of the road.

Since the 1990s, cancer deaths have dropped significantly in the United States. For some cancers like thyroid, breast, or prostate, the five-year survival rate is 90% or even higher. For all cancers combined, the current five-year survival rate is at approximately 67%. Survival rates depend on a number of things, like what treatments are available, how quickly the cancer grows, if it has spread (and how far), and more.

2. Cutting out sugar will cure cancer.

No. All cells consume sugar, not just cancer cells. There isn’t evidence that sugar consumption has any effect on cancer—whether good or bad. It is important, though, to keep in mind that a diet high in sugar may contribute to obesity, which can increase your risk of many types of cancer.

3. Cancer is caused by artificial sweeteners.

No. Most artificial sweeteners have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies do not link artificial sweeteners to cancer.

4. Surgeries and biopsies spread cancer.

If you’re worried about surgery spreading cancer throughout your body, then you can rest easy: the odds of cancer spreading through a surgical procedure are very low. Surgeons take preventative measures so cancer cells don’t spread during surgeries, like using fresh tools when performing procedures on different parts of the body.

5. Cancer cures are being withheld.

Not true. The FDA and your cancer care team are working for you and are specifically committed to your safety. Unfortunately, thorough safety testing means that new treatments can be slow to come to market. Remember, the FDA needs to ensure every treatment is safe as well as effective.

6. Cancer was created by humans and is a modern disease.

Did you know that cancer was discovered in dinosaur bones? The truth is that cancer has always been around, but as life expectancies increase, more cases of cancer are diagnosed. Our tools for diagnosis have also improved. Since the 1990s, cancer deaths have dropped significantly in the United States.

7. Your smartphone causes cancer.

Don’t get rid of your smartphone yet! Gene mutations cause cancer, and the energy emitted by cell phones isn’t known to damage genes.

8. Our technology is so advanced that we should have cured cancer by now.

Curing cancer isn’t easy. The cells continue to mutate and change over the course of the disease, making the discovery of a true cure very complex. Also, cancer is used as a catchall term, but there are actually over 100 known forms of the disease. Although great strides have and diagnosing patients, we still have a lot to learn about what triggers cancer.

9. You can catch cancer from someone else.

Cancer isn’t a contagious disease. There is an extremely low chance of transplant-related cancer being spread from a tissue or organ transplant if you receive an organ from someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, but doctors avoid using organs or tissues from anyone who has had a cancer diagnosis. In some cases, you may catch a virus that can lead to cancer (e.g., some forms of human papillomavirus, or HPV) or encounter bacteria (e.g., Helicobacter pylori) that could lead to the disease.

10. Superfoods can stop cancer.

Acai? Blueberries? Green tea? There’s no doubt that you’ve heard of superfoods that have amazing benefits. But these foods don’t have superpowers, and there’s no scientific basis for calling them superfoods. But don’t write them off all together--it’s always smart to think about your diet and eat more fruits and vegetables.