Five Cancer myths

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the 2014 World Cancer Report – and the news is not good. The worldwide burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within the next two decades. According to the NZ Ministry of Health, one in three New Zealanders will have some experience of cancer, either personally or through a relative or friend

With the World Health Organisation advising that approximately thirty percent of cancer deaths are due to behavioral and dietary risks, it is logical for there to be a high level of public interest in methods of prevention. Nevertheless, sorting scientific fact from rumour fiction can be difficult for everyday consumers. Australia’s Cancer Council has recently created a new mobile app for its iheard website , with the object being to improve education and knowledge.

“(The new app) allows anyone to ask a cancer related question and have their query reviewed by a team of experts in the field,” explains Cancer Council Australia CEO, 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.” What types of misinformation? Well, here are five cancer myths recently posted – and busted.

1. Eating apricot kernels can cure cancer ( Some people claim that a chemical found in apricot kernels, known as amygdalin, can cure cancer. Despite decades of research, dating back to the 1950s, there is no evidence that Laetrile can treat tumours in animals. Clinical trials in humans have also failed to find any benefits. Unfortunately, taking Laetrile, or eating apricot kernels in large amounts, is not only ineffective at treating cancer but could also be very dangerous.

2. Bicarb soda is a great treatment for any cancer ( Sodium bicarbonate, also known as baking 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 used in proper doses and as directed, high doses can cause serious problems or even death.

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.

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.

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.

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

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