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It is very easy to be misguided by the numerous myths about cancer. As the disease has not yet been completely deciphered, everyday we come across some or the other cancer news. Do not believe blindly in everything that you get to read about the disease.
Always seek evidence based information. Wrong ideas about cancer may hurt our chances of making informed decisions, which may prove costly in the long term. Some of the common cancer myths which we must be wary of are:

1.    Cancer is hereditary

One must remember that only 5 to 10 % of cancers, such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer are hereditary. Here also, it must be noted that the cancer gene passed from either parent to the child only increases the likelihood of his developing the cancer. It does not mean that the child will certainly develop the disease.

Most of the cancers are because of genetic mutations in the DNA, because of prolonged exposure to risk factors such as tobacco, radiations, sunlight, etc. Another popular cancer myth is that only mothers are responsible for passing the mutated genes, which cause breast and ovarian cancer in their children. Gene mutations on chromosome 17 like BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, responsible for these cancers can be inherited from either the father or the mother.

2.    Cancer can spread from person to person contact

Always remember that cancer is not a contagious disease. But sometimes, certain viruses which are contagious can cause the development of cancer. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a virus which can cause sexually transmitted disease resulting in increased chances of developing cervical, anal and certain head and neck cancers. Hepatitis C virus which is transmitted through sexual activity or through the use of infected intravenous needles can cause liver cancer. It is good to protect yourself from these viruses but it is important to remember that though the virus is contagious, the cancer it spreads is not contagious and cannot spread.

3.    Drinking fluoridated water causes cancer

The link between drinking water which contains fluorine and cancer has been debated for long. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently come out with a report which summarizes many research findings and concludes that all the studies done till that do not establish and credible connection between fluoridated drinking water and increased risk for developing cancer.

4.    Using hair dye can result in brain cancer

Over the years many Americans have believed that using a hair dye can result in brain, bladder and breast cancers. However, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there is no association between use of hair dye and increased risk of developing any type of cancer. Some studies have suggested that the hair dyes in use before 1980 contained certain harmful chemicals which were associated with increased incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma but the hair dyes used today do not contain these chemicals any longer.

5.    Using antiperspirants and deodorants can cause breast cancer

This is one of the commonest myths about breast cancer which is believed by many women. The active ingredients in many antiperspirants are aluminum based compounds known as parabens. There are umpteen stories on the internet and other postings which claim that these compounds are absorbed by the skin through the nicks and cuts during shaving. They, then produce hormonal effects which may lead to the development of breast cancer. Another theory doing the rounds is that the antiperspirants block sweating and prevent the purging out of harmful toxins from the armpits. Theses toxins choke the lymphatic channels in the armpit resulting in breast cancer. However, both the National Cancer Institute and the FDA have rubbished these stories. They have not found any association between the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and subsequent development of breast cancer.

6.    Cell phones can cause cancer

This is again a very popular belief regarding the development of cancer. Innumerable studies have been done to find out the association between the effects of prolonged exposure to the harmful radiations of a cell phone and the development of cancer but the stories have largely remained inconclusive. Till date, there has been no credible study which can firmly establish any relation between the two.

7.    Breast cancer is a disease of the women

Contrary to what most men would like to believe, occurrence of breast cancer is not restricted to women only. It is a disease which can affect males as well, though the rate of incidence is much lower in them as compared to females. About 1500 men in America are affected with breast cancer every year out of which around 500 die. So all the men should be aware of this fact and those who are at an increased risk because of positive family history should undergo an examination from time to time.

8.    Cancer leads to thinning of hair

Cancer of any type, per se, does not lead to hair loss. It is the cancer treatments like radiation therapy and particularly chemotherapy which cause hair loss as a side effect. However, it is not necessary that chemotherapy may lead to hair loss in all the patients.

9.    Cancer is a fatal disease

It is a known fact that cancer can lead to death. However, with the better understanding of the nature of the disease and the advent of newer and better forms of therapies, the number of deaths due to cancer, have fallen sharply. Nowadays, with proper treatment, more than 40% cancer patients live past the five year survivor mark.


10.    A cure for cancer exists but it has not been made public

There can be nothing more far from the truth than this myth. Each type of cancer is so different from the other regarding the place of its origin, the types of cell involved and the nature of its spread inside the body. Even two patients suffering from a similar type of cancer are not identical. Their response to similar treatment is also individualistic. There definitely cannot be a magic potion for all type of cancers. Even if for one crazy moment we believe that such treatment indeed exists; how do we explain the deaths of many doctors, members of various pharmaceutical companies and their family members due to cancer?

These myths just distract our attention from preventing the risk factors of cancer, if possible, and procuring urgent and proper treatment in case we have protracted the disease. We should not believe in everything we hear or read. Rather, we should try to become a well informed health care consumer.