We’ve all heard popular ideas about cancer that are scientifically wrong. Unfortunately, many of these mistaken beliefs about cancer can lead to unnecessary anxiety and worry. In this article, Dr. Kevin Dalby, UT Austin professor, debunks the most common myths surrounding cancer while providing the latest scientific information instead.
Getting a biopsy can make cancer spread
When a tumor is tested or removed, it will not cause cancer to grow. There is no evidence to support this idea. Biopsies and other tests are essential parts of the treatment process.
Eating sugar can make cancer worse
This myth seems to have grown from the fact that cancer cells consume more glucose than normal cells. No studies have demonstrated that eating or avoiding sugar will affect cancer cells. People that eat a high-sugar diet may be obese, and obesity is associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Solid tumors don’t require surgery
There are treatments used to shrink solid tumors, and even though these treatments may lower the risk of cancer returning, surgery is often recommended when possible.
Artificial sweeteners are known to cause cancer
Artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose, have undergone extensive testing. None of these substances have been found to contribute to cancer.
The risk of skin cancer is the same for all complexions
Not so much — fair-skinned people have a greater risk. Also, folks with blond or red hair, green or blue eyes, or freckles are at higher risk.
Cancer is contagious
Cancer is not contagious and does not spread from person to person. However, it can spread (in very rare cases) when a person receives an organ transplant from a donor who has, or has had, cancer.
Chemotherapy is awful
Not always. It was usually true that chemotherapy was going to come with severe and harmful side effects in the past. Medical science has come a long way toward reducing, eliminating, or mitigating the worst of them.
Attitude affects cancer
No doubt that having a positive attitude will help a patient deal with the rigors of cancer treatment. Still, no scientific evidence has shown that attitude alone can affect cancer cells.
If you’re pregnant, you can’t be treated for cancer
There are options for the treatment of cancer in pregnant women. If you suspect you have cancer and are pregnant, getting tested early is critical for both mother and baby.
Cell phones can cause cancer
Nope. Genetic mutations cause cancer, and the low-frequency energy emitted by cell phones does not damage genes.
Oncologists discourage unconventional treatments
As long as the unconventional treatment in question is not dangerous or harmful, most oncologists will not object to its use. They may, in fact, encourage a variety of such treatments if the patient is enthusiastic about them.
Living near power lines or wind farms can cause cancer
The possible environmental conditions created by power lines and wind farms have been extensively studied. No credible indications of a relationship between these utilities and cancer have been shown.
Antiperspirants and deodorants cause breast cancer
No relationship between the chemicals found in antiperspirants or deodorants and cancer has ever been demonstrated.
About Kevin Dalby
Dr. Kevin Dalby is a UT Austin professor specializing in chemical biology and medicinal chemistry and currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.