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The Six Most Common Cancer Myths

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The internet is awash with countless ideas on what could trigger cancer or aggravate its risks. These theories, while popular, are not necessarily true. But they have always made rounds on the web, for as long as one can remember. These are, of course, scientifically misleading, and can set back the chances of cancer prevention and treatment.

This article seeks to bust some of the most common cancer myths people usually buy. Loaded with information backed by science, this post tries to be the tool for course correction, so that cancer patients and their well-wishers, can take an informed decision, every time.


Consuming sugar aggravates cancer

No, it doesn’t. Though research states that cancer cells consume sugar (glucose) more than non-cancerous cells, no study evinces consuming sugar can aggravate the condition. Similarly, no study links reduced sugar consumption with lesser chances of developing cancer.

That being said, a sugar-rich diet is, of course, unhealthy, considering it can lead to obesity that can then trigger the early onset of cancer or a host of other lifestyle conditions known to increase the probability of certain types of cancer.



Cancer may be contagious

No. Cancer is not an infectious condition that can spread through human contact. The only way cancer may ‘spread’ is through tissue or organ transplantation. Suppose an individual gets a tissue transplant from a donor who might have had cancer in the past. In a situation like this, the donee may be vulnerable to developing cancer (transplant-related) later in life.

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However, such a risk is negligible, considering doctors discourage tissue or organ donation by donors with a history of cancer.

NOTE: Cancer may be caused by certain kinds of bacteria and viruses, the human papillomavirus (HPV) or Helicobacter pylori, for instance. While the cancer-causing pathogen can spread through human contact, cancer in itself doesn’t.



A tumour biopsy can cause cancer to spread in the body

The chances of it happening are extremely low. Surgeons are careful and follow standard medical protocols to ensure cancerous cells don’t spread in the body while conducting surgeries or biopsies. For instance, if the surgery warrants the removal of tissues from multiple parts of the body, the surgeons will use different and sanitized surgical equipment for each area.



One’s attitude determines the risk of developing cancer and chances of recovery

Till date, no study has validated the authenticity of such sweeping statements. Understand this – if one is diagnosed with cancer, it is natural for the person to feel angry and frustrated sometimes. However, one should try and maintain a positive outlook towards life. That’s because positivity will make the person feel upbeat about his/her chances, lead him/her to forge social connections and stay active, factors that can help one cope with cancer better.



Herbal concoctions and products cure cancer

No. While some studies have suggested that herbal therapies and other alternatives may help one cope with the ill effects of cancer treatment, there’s no research supporting the efficacy of herbal products and concoctions in effectively treating cancer.

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In fact, certain herbal products are not advised during radiation therapy or chemotherapy, as they could interfere with these treatment procedures. Cancer patients must consult with their doctors before starting or continuing with any alternative therapy.



I have a family history of cancer. That means I will get it too

That’s not true. Cancer is a result of gene mutation (harmful changes in the genetic structure). Of these, only 5-10% of cancers are hereditary. In a family that has had a long history of cancer, most of the family members would likely develop the same cancer type. These are called ‘hereditary’ or ‘familial’ cancers.

The remaining 95% of cancers are caused due to mutations that may happen over one’s lifetime, either because of ageing or increased exposure to the elements and other environmental factors like radiation, smoke, and tobacco. These cancers are non-hereditary, meaning one’s family history of the disease has no bearing on the person’s chances of developing it.

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