6 Cancer Myths: Busted

Canstar tackles some of the biggest myths about the causes and prevention of cancer. Is baking soda a cancer cure? Experts reveal the truth.

Cancer is the biggest single killer in Australia, and there would be very few people who have not had their lives impacted by the cancer-related illness or death of someone they care for. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) advising that approximately 1 in 3 cancer deaths are due to behavioural and dietary risks, it is logical for there to be a high level of public interest in how to prevent cancer.

Nevertheless, sorting scientific facts from the fictitious rumours can be difficult for everyday consumers, so to help improve education and knowledge, the Cancer Council has created a new mobile app for its iheard website.

“(The new app) allows anyone to ask a cancer related question and have their query reviewed by a team of experts in the field,” explained Cancer Council Australia’s CEO at the time, Professor Ian Olver.

“We hope for it to increase access to accurate, evidence based information while dispelling myths, rumours, and misinformation.

“The app is particularly handy if you need to do a quick fact check on the go.”

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What types of misinformation? Well, here are six cancer myths recently posted – and busted.

1. “Baking soda is a great treatment for any cancer.”

Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking soda or bi-carb soda, is promoted by some alternative practitioners as a cancer treatment. There is no credible evidence to support this claim. While sodium bicarbonate is safe when used in proper doses and as directed, high doses can cause serious problems or even death (iheard).

Better stick to using baking soda as a cheap way to clean your house!

2. “Eating apricot kernels can cure cancer.”

Some people claim that a chemical found in apricot kernels, known as amygdalin, can cure cancer. The chemical is also marketed in a slightly modified form as ‘Laetrile’. Despite decades of research and clinical trials in animals and humans, dating back to the 1950s, there is no evidence that Laetrile can treat tumours. What’s worse, taking Laetrile, or eating apricot kernels in large amounts, could actually be very dangerous (iheard).

3. “There are ingredients in cosmetics and beauty products that cause cancer.”

The chemicals used in everyday beauty products and cosmetics are scrutinised by regulatory bodies around the world and, so far, there is no evidence that using cosmetics, shampoo, and other such products as intended increases the risk of cancer (iheard).

4. “Mammograms can cause tumours to burst.”

A mammogram is one of the best methods available to detect breast cancer. It is important that the breast tissue is squeezed to enable a clear x-ray image; however, while there may be some discomfort, it will not cause a tumour to burst and spread to other parts of the body (iheard).

5. “Underarm deodorants and antiperspirants with aluminium can cause cancer.”

There is no evidence to support the claim that deodorants or antiperspirants cause cancer. This link was first suggested in an email hoax, and rumours have circulated ever since (iheard).

6. “Extended use of a laptop resting on your lap can cause cancer.”

Current scientific evidence indicates there is no link between cancer and using a laptop or other portable computer device. While some studies show that heat (from various sources, not just laptops) can affect a man’s sperm and fertility, there is no research linking heat from laptops to cell damage or cancer (iheard).

“We all have that friend who loves to make fanciful claims and believes everything on the internet,” says Professor Aranda. “The iheard app helps you set the record straight and get the facts.”

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