Medical myths: All about cancer | DNBE Gallery

Medical myths: All about cancer

Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions

Cancer myths abound. They range from well-intentioned attempts to explain what causes cancer to outright misinformation. Some people think that cancer is caused by viruses or bacteria; others believe that it is caused by toxins in food or air pollution. Still others blame cancer on genetic mutations passed down through families. And there are many more.

But while these beliefs may seem plausible, they aren’t based on scientific evidence. In fact, most of them are simply false.

This page lists 10 commonly held cancer myths and misconceptions along with the facts behind them. While you might find some of the information surprising, keep reading because we’ve included explanations of why each myth is wrong.

Myth #1: “I’m allergic to peanuts.”

Fact: Peanuts don’t cause allergies. Allergies occur when someone’s immune system overreacts to something harmless like pollen, dust mites, or mold spores. People who develop allergies often have trouble breathing and sneeze frequently.

Myth #2: “I had my appendix removed because I am prone to appendicitis.”

Fact: Appendicitis isn’t contagious. Your appendix serves no purpose other than storing waste products such as bile. If your appendix becomes inflamed, it could rupture and cause severe pain. However, the inflammation itself doesn’t spread to other parts of your body.

1. Only smokers develop lung cancer

The CDC estimates that around 10–20 percent of people with lung cancer in America never smoked or have smoked less than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime. This includes people like me — I am one of those 20 percent. Lung cancer is caused by smoking, plain and simple.

But what about secondhand smoke? Is there some sort of connection between passive smoking and developing lung cancer? The answer is no. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, “There is no evidence that secondhand smoke increases the risk of getting lung cancer.”

So why does the CDC still say otherwise? Because the CDC relies on data from death certificates to determine how many Americans die each year from tobacco use. Death certificates are notoriously inaccurate, especially when it comes to identifying secondhand smoke as a cause of death. For example, the CDC says that around 8,400 people died because of secondhand smoke in 2016. But the actual number is much lower. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the true figure is closer to 4,700.

In addition, the CDC doesn’t include secondhand smoke among the leading causes of death in all states. Instead, the agency focuses on just

2. There is no way to reduce the risk

Dr.

– Hirsch told Business Insider that there are many different factors that contribute to lung cancer risk, including genetics, diet, environmental exposures, and lifestyle choices.

– However, he noted that there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of developing lung cancer.

– He added that most people who develop lung cancer do so because of their personal history of smoking cigarettes.

– In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, about 85% of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking.

– If you want to lower your chances of getting lung cancer, Dr.

– Hirschi recommends stopping smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke.

3. Only older adults develop lung cancer

– Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers among women.

– But it is rare in younger women.

– In fact, only about 5 percent of cases are diagnosed in people under age 40.

– When it does occur in young women, it tends to be linked to smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.

– And although there is no way to know how many cases go unreported, Dr. Hirsch says she doesn’t think it happens very often.

4. Living in a polluted city is worse than smoking for lung cancer risk

A recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention suggests that living in a polluted city is a bigger risk factor for developing lung cancer than smoking. Researchers analyzed data from over 2 million people, including nearly 300,000 cases of lung cancer. They found that living in areas with high levels of air pollution was linked to a greater risk of lung cancer. In fact, there was a 50% increase in the risk of developing lung cancer for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns). This translates into a 14% increase in risk for every 5 micrograms/m3 increase in PM10 (particulate matter between 10 and 2.5 microns), and a 9% increase for every 10 microgram/m3 increase in NOx (nitrogen oxides). These findings suggest that air pollution poses a much larger threat to public health than previously thought.

The researchers also compared the effects of air pollution with those of cigarette smoke. They found that living near busy roads was a stronger risk factor than being a smoker. “We know that air pollution causes serious health problems, but we don’t know how big a problem it is relative to cigarettes,” said lead author Dr.

5. ‘I’ve smoked for years, there’s no point stopping now’

– Smoking cessation reduces the risk of developing lung cancer significantly.

– Aside from lung Cancer, stopping smoking also reduces

the risk of developing a range

of other conditions, including heart

disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

When you stop smoking, you are likely to

add years to your life, breath more

6. Smoking cannabis does not increase lung cancer risk

Cannabis use is associated with increased risks of some types of cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, stomach, pancreas and liver, according to a recent review published in the American Journal of Public Health. But it doesn’t seem to increase the risk of lung cancer, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The authors reviewed 14 epidemiologic studies involving nearly 8 million participants and found no significant link between smoking marijuana and developing lung cancer. Only one out of the 14 studies showed a positive correlation between cannabis use and lung cancer.

But there are several limitations to the research. For example, most of the studies involved self-reported data, meaning that the researchers didn’t actually know how much cannabis people smoked or whether they used both pot and tobacco products. Some of the studies had small sample sizes, making it difficult to draw conclusions about certain subgroups such as women or older adults. And because the studies included different kinds of cannabis — including hashish, marihuana, resin and hemp oil — it’s impossible to say what specific compounds might cause harm.

Overall, the findings suggest that, while there could be a connection between cannabis and lung cancer, further research is needed. “There is little conclusive evidence,” concluded the authors. “More prospective cohort studies are warranted.”

7. If you have lung cancer, you may as well continue to smoke

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, it might seem like a good idea to keep smoking. After all, cigarettes contain nicotine, which helps reduce pain and anxiety. And since there is no cure for lung cancer, why stop now? But according to Dr. David Hirsch, director of thoracic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, you shouldn’t. In fact, he says, people with lung cancer who quit actually do better than those who don’t. “There are many reasons to quit,” explains Dr. Hirsch. “But one reason is that people who continue to smoke tend to die sooner.” Lung cancer patients who quit smoking live longer than those who never smoked.

Dr. Hirsch says that cigarette smokers with lung cancer often believe they’re doomed because they’ve been diagnosed with cancer. “They think they’ll just be dead within six months,” he says. “That’s what we tell them, too. We say, ‘You’re going to die.’ They ask us how long they have left. I always say three to five years. Then they start thinking about their family and they realize, ‘I’m not going to make it.'”

The problem with this mindset is that it doesn’t take into account the treatment options available today. “We treat early stage lung cancer very effectively,” says Dr. Hirsch. He adds that even though some treatments aren’t curative, they extend survival. “Our data show that people who quit smoking live longer,” he says.

Is cancer a death sentence?

In the United States, the number of deaths caused by cancer declined steadily over the 20th century. From 1900 to 1950, there were approximately 2 million annual deaths due to cancer. By 2000, that figure had fallen to around 600,000. And today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it stands at around 560,000 annually.

Five-year survival rates for certain types of cancers have improved dramatically during the same period. Breast cancer, for example, is now typically diagnosed at early stages; five-year survival rates for women with localized breast cancer increased from 89 percent in 1975 to 97 percent in 2013. Prostate cancer survival rates have risen from 76 percent in 1991 to 98 percent in 2013. And thyroid cancer survival rates have climbed from 66 percent in 1973 to 91 percent in 2012.

For more information on the status of cancer in the United States, please refer to the Annual Report to the President on Progress in Combatting Cancer.

Will eating sugar make my cancer worse?

Cancer researchers are studying whether certain foods influence how fast cancers grow and spread. One study found that people who ate lots of added sugars had tumors that grew faster than those whose diets contained less sugar. Other studies suggest that consuming too much sugar may increase the number of circulating cancer cells—cells that have broken away from tumors and travel throughout the body. This may explain why some people develop multiple forms of cancer even though they don’t smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol excessively.

The evidence isn’t clear about whether sugar directly causes cancer. But it does seem likely that consuming too many calories overall increases the likelihood of getting cancer. A calorie is a measure of energy. Eating more calories than needed could lead to weight gain, which is linked to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, depression, anxiety disorders, and certain kinds of cancer.

For more information, see the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Fact Sheet on Sugar Intake and Cancer Risk.

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Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?

Researchers have conducted studies on the effects of artificial sweeteners on people’s health. They found no evidence that these sugar substitutes cause cancer in humans. However, some of them are known carcinogens in animals. Some studies suggest that they might increase the risk of bladder cancer. More research is needed to determine whether there is a link between these substances and other types of cancer.

The following table lists the studies that looked into the possible association between artificial sweeteners and cancer.

Artificial Sweetener Type Study Design Findings Saccharin Animal Studies Increased incidence of kidney tumors in male rats Cyclamate Human Studies None Sucralose Animal Studies Increased incidence of liver tumors in female mice Aspartame Animal Studies Increased incidence of brain tumors in female mice Neotame Animal Studies Increased incidence and multiplicity of mammary gland tumors in female rats Acesulfame Potassium Animal Studies Increased incidence of lung adenomas in male rats Splenda Animal Studies Increased incidence of pancreatic tumors in female rats

For more information about the relationship between diet and cancer, see the NCI Fact Sheet “What You Can Do About Diet and Cancer.”

Is cancer contagious?

Cancer is not a contagious disease. There are many myths about how it spreads, including the idea that people who come into contact with someone who has cancer catch the illness themselves. This isn’t true. People who develop cancer don’t pass it along to others.

The only way cancer can spread from one individual to another is in the rare case of organ or tissue donation. When doctors perform an organ or tissue transplant, they carefully screen potential donors to ensure there are no signs of cancer. If a donor does test positive for cancer, they won’t donate the organ or tissue.

There are several reasons why you shouldn’t worry about catching cancer from someone else. First, most cancers occur randomly and aren’t passed down genetically. Second, even if a person did inherit cancer genes from his or her parents, those genes wouldn’t necessarily cause cancer. And third, cancer cells don’t travel very far, so you’d probably never encounter them anyway.

However, if you receive an organ or tissue from someone who had cancer in the recent past, you’re at slightly greater risk of contracting that same type of cancer later in life. But the chances of that happening are still pretty small. For example, researchers estimate that out of every 10,000 organ transplanted patients, 2 will contract a form of cancer related to the original organ donor.

Does my attitude—positive or negative—determine my risk of, or likely recovery from, cancer?

To date, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that links a patient’s “attitude“ to his or her risk for developing or dying from cancer, according to a review published today in JAMA Oncology. However, people with a positive outlook are less likely to develop depression and anxiety during treatment and recover better from stressors such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. They may also be more likely to adhere to medical regimens and follow doctor recommendations, leading to improved survival rates.

The findings come from a systematic review conducted by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York University School of Medicine, and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In addition to reviewing studies about how patients’ attitudes influence their health outcomes, the team looked at data on whether a patient’s attitude affects the effectiveness of treatments.

Can cancer surgery or a tumor biopsy cause cancer to spread in the body?

Surgery and biopsies are common ways to diagnose cancer. However, it’s important to know what happens during these procedures because they could lead to metastasis—the process by which cancer spreads throughout the body. Surgeons usually perform several types of tests to determine whether there are nearby tumors or cancerous areas in the body. If they find something suspicious, they remove the affected part of the body. They do this by making incisions in the skin and performing surgeries to remove tissues.

If doctors suspect cancer, they often perform a biopsy. This involves taking a small piece of tissue from the suspected site. Sometimes, the tissue sample is sent to a lab where it is examined under a microscope. Doctors might repeat this procedure multiple times over the course of weeks or months. During this period, the patient undergoes regular checkups to monitor the development of any additional cancers.

In some cases, however, the surgeon removes too much tissue. In such cases, the remaining tissue can become cancerous. This can happen even if the original tumor was benign. To reduce the risk of recurrence, surgeons follow certain guidelines when performing biopsies and surgeries. These include:

• Making sure that the entire tumor is removed.

• Using special instruments to ensure that no cancer cells remain behind.

• Taking precautions to avoid damaging healthy tissue.

• Testing the samples taken from the tumor to make sure they are free of cancer.

Will cancer get worse if exposed to air?

Cancer experts say exposure to air does not make tumors grow faster, nor do they believe it causes cancer to spread to other areas of the body. In fact, most cancers are diagnosed because patients feel something unusual during their checkups or notice symptoms such as pain or swelling.

For example, breast cancer typically grows slowly over several years and usually doesn’t spread outside of the original tumor site. But some types of breast cancer can become aggressive and spread quickly.

In addition, some people think that exposing cancer cells to air makes them grow faster. This is not true. When you expose cancer cells to air, they’re still alive; they just don’t move around anymore.

However, there are situations where exposure to air could increase the risk of metastasis. If a person develops lymphoma while he or she is undergoing treatment for another type of cancer, doctors might recommend that the patient avoid being exposed to air as much as possible.

The reason is that chemotherapy drugs can kill both normal and cancerous tissue. So, if someone is exposed to air soon after finishing chemotherapy, the remaining healthy cells could die off, leaving behind only cancer cells. These surviving cancer cells could then travel to different organs throughout the body and form new tumors.