5 Cancer Myths

by Brian English

They are spread by the media. They pop up on the Internet. You read them in email chains. On blogs. And in online forums. And often – perhaps most of all – you hear them in the hospital. They are the popular myths and rumors about cancer.

5 Cancer Myths

You don’t have to be part of the cancer community too long before you’re well versed nearly every “popular” cancer rumor and misconception. And, in an equally short time, certain of these persistent lines of bull you-know-what can make you crazy. As with most myths, cancer’s long list of half truths and quasi-scientific bunk is usually spread and perpetuated by those whose “experience” with the disease comes from a three-minute segment they may have seen on a TV news show.

Here’s a list of some greatest hits that have been shared by WhatNexters.

Sharks Don’t Get Cancer

Sharks Don't Get Cancer


Complete hooey. This oddball notion came from the specious clinical evidence that shark cartilage can inhibit the development of blood vessels that are critical to the growth of tumors. Nutritionist William Lane popularize this particular load of bunk with his 1992 book entitled – what else? – Sharks Don’t Get Cancer. But in spite of Lane’s book, cancerous tumors have, in fact, been found in sharks. And yet thousands of people have been duped into ingesting shark cartilage dietary supplements – the side effects of which can be nausea and vomiting. Something every cancer patient needs more of, right?

Sugar Causes Cancer

Does Sugar Cause Cancer


For years, the notion that cancer “feeds” off sugar has been, for some reason, “accepted science.” Except it’s not true. And there are plenty of cancer patients out there who’ve been denying themselves a bowl of ice cream or a candy bar because of this. Part of this myth stems from the public’s oversimplified notion of what “sugar” is. There are different kinds of sugar: the stuff you put in your coffee is sucrose, and it’s a combination of the two naturally occurring sugars of glucose and fructose. And the fact is, all of the body’s cells – healthy or otherwise – use glucose for energy. There’s no evidence that cancer cells grow faster with an increased sugar diet.

"Gap122041" was told that the reason she was craving sugar was because cancer cells were “feeding” off sugar. Kind of like a tapeworm? It’s just absurd.

“I may not have a good attitude about it,” gap122041. “but I refuse to give up one thing that makes my condition more doable.”

"ritafaystageIV" made the astute observation that when she “reads articles about cancer feeding off of sugar, it usually ends with someone trying to sell hundreds of dollars of supplements!”

Yes, eating too much sugar can be unhealthy – but not for any cancer-related reason. Oh, and if you’re wondering about whether so-called “acidic” diets are contributing to your cancer, there’s about as much evidence of that as there is for sugar accelerating the disease.

You Can Cure Cancer By Changing Your Diet

Cancer 10 Foods Berries 320


You’re not eating enough quinoa! Or blueberries! You need more garlic! Drink more green tea! If you just ate more superfoods, you’d be cancer free!

Too bad there’s no such thing as a “superfood.”

Now, naturally adding plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet isn’t a bad thing; there’s little doubt that these are healthy foods. But they’re not “super,” and to imply that ingesting large amounts of these foods can have any impact on your cancer is patently untrue.

You don’t have to do much Googling to find this particular irresponsible myth being spread by so-called “reliable” sources. A 2009 article by Kathy Freston on Oprah.com posits the question “Can a Plant-Based Diet Cure Cancer?” The despicable first paragraph goes on to claim:

“There is hope. Real, scientifically valid, practical hope. This is what I am learning from a few highly esteemed doctors and nutrition scientists who say there is much to be done with diet when it comes to cancer.”

Nonsense. And the “evidence” that eating charred meat (which contains high levels of HCAs and PAHs) can cause or impact your cancer is also inconclusive at best. So go ahead: throw those burgers on the grill.
Cancer is a Man-Made Disease of the Modern Era
Nope. Cancer’s been described in writings of ancient Greeks. And it’s even been detected in 3,000-year-old bones discovered in ancient Egypt. Want to go back even farther? It’s been found in dinosaur bones, too.

A Cancer Diagnosis is an Automatic Death Sentence

Hello I Am A Survivor


“As soon as I said ‘cancer,’ someone I was talking with started acting as though I were on death’s door then and there,” writes Ejourneys.
In just three minutes of surfing through the WhatNext site, you’ll find ample evidence of many forum members not just overcoming cancers of all types, stages, and severities, but resuming their lives and thriving in the wake of the disease.

Related asinine comments heard by some WhatNexters include:

“I had nurses tell me that ‘breast cancer’ is the only real cancer.” meyati

“I was asked why I didn’t care for myself or see a dermatologist [for skin cancer].” – meyati

“I was also questioned about why I ignored my symptoms. Uh, because I didn’t have any up until I ended up in the ER bleeding heavily.” lh25

“When people say to me, ‘What did you do to cause this cancer?’” carlie

A Positive Attitude Will Cure Your Cancer

Positive Attitude


“I think the most obnoxious thing I have been told is to just keep positive and everything will be OK,” writes BoiseB. “As if a positive attitude will cure my cancer.”

A positive attitude can certainly improve your quality of life while you’re undergoing an arduous cancer treatment. It can keep you active, help maintain your ties to friends and family, and get you to continue to live your life. But there’s zero scientific proof that it can improve your chances of beating the disease.

In fact, a 2007 study of one thousand patients with head and neck cancers found “no support for the hypothesis that negative emotional well being predicts poorer survival.”

Consider this a license to be as cantankerous and curmudgeonly as you please.

What’s your least favorite/most annoying cancer myth? Share it with other members on the WhatNext Forums.

Blog Home