The Truth About Cancer: 5 Common Misconceptions
Holistic Living

The Truth About Cancer: 5 Common Misconceptions


4 February 2017


Cancer is everywhere. We hear about it on the radio, on TV, in newspapers, the world wide web, and of course, some of us have been personally affected by this dreaded disease.

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It’s a disease that is feared, and as such, there are many misconceptions and myths surrounding it – how to avoid it, how one gets it, what one should stay away from, and much more. Although some of them may have some truth to them, there are others that are farfetched, and quite simply wrong.

Let’s start clearing up the more common ones.

‘Sun protection is only needed if I burn easily’

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed and most preventable form of cancer. The skin needs protection from the sun’s rays, and this can’t be stressed upon enough. While sunscreen used to only be thought necessary for outdoor activities and lazing by the beach, it is now recommended for daily use. A broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 and above, together with clothing, and sunglasses will give you the protection you need from the sun’s harsh rays. You should even add a hat if your activity will have you mostly in the sun.

Even if you don’t burn, your skin getting tanned is the effect of the ultraviolet rays of the sun being absorbed by melanin – it does this to protect healthy cells from getting damaged, so getting tanned is one step closer to damaged skin. And if you think using a sunbed to get a tan is a good idea, think again! Your skin will still get damaged.

Protecting your skin is not only vital to preventing skin cancer, it’ll also keep you looking younger for longer as the sun’s rays may cause wrinkles and premature ageing. So take the necessary precautions – for your health and also for vanity’s sake!

‘Artificial sweeteners cause cancer.’

First of all, for every statement like “Food XYZ causes cancer”, it has to be said that a single food (or factor in general) cannot be deemed as the sole reason for cancer. That said, a study on the safety of seven artificial sweeteners had been conducted showing that artificial sweeteners in general are not considered to promote the development of cancer.

This fear was based on studies where lab rats developed bladder cancer (thought to be related to saccharin) and the increase in brain tumours in people (thought to be related to aspartame). Both were subjected to more studies and it was found that there were no clear links between the artificial sweeteners and the medical conditions. Studies of other FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-approved sweeteners have not demonstrated clear evidence of an association with cancer in humans.


‘Cancer is contagious’

In general, cancer is not contagious. There are no recorded cases where it easily spreads from one person to another. But there is one situation in which cancer can spread between two persons: organ or tissue transplantation. When receiving tissue or organs from a donor, who had cancer in the past, the risk of developing a transplant-related cancer is increased, albeit very low.

In some cases cancer is caused by various viruses (e.g. HPV and some types of human papillomavirus) and bacteria (e.g. Helicobacter pylori). While it’s certainly possible that viruses or bacteria can spread from person to person, it is not possible for the cancer they cause to spread.

‘Radiation from mobile phones causes cancer’

This myth has been around for a long time and many people still believe it to be true. The concern is understandable as the number of mobile phones, their usage and thus radiation from these devices have increased drastically.

Studies have shown that mobile phones emit low-frequency energy that doesn’t damage genes, and as cancer is caused by genetic mutations, this fear is unfounded.

‘Cancer is hereditary’

As mentioned, cancer is caused by harmful mutation of genes. Family members may get the same type of cancer if the cancer-causing gene is passed on. If however, there is no family history of cancer, this doesn’t mean you’re in the clear as only 5%-10% of cancers are ‘familial’ or ‘hereditary’. The most common types of cancers are caused by mutations that happen during a person’s lifetime due to lifestyle or exposure to environmental factors.


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