7 urban legends about cancer

March 24, 2016 | by Samir Undevia, MD

When it comes to the Internet and social media, anyone can be an expert on a particular subject. Discerning fact from fiction can be a challenge, and rumors spread fast. Whether it’s knowing the best age to start cancer screenings or determining if a specific type of deodorant is linked to cancer, myths and misconceptions can lead you to unnecessary worry about your health and safety.

Here’s the real deal on these 7 urban legends about cancer:

Microwaving plastic can cause cancer.

You probably heard somewhere that you should never microwave a plastic container. Due to the fact that some plastics can melt into your food, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you only use plastic containers and other cookware that has been labeled microwave safe. Avoid warming up your food in restaurant take-out containers or plastic tubs.

Only women get breast cancer.

Both men and women can develop breast cancer, as all people are born with some breast cells and tissue. Although men can get breast cancer too, it is rare. The National Breast Cancer Foundation says less than one percent of all breast cancer cases develop in men and only 1 in 1,000 men will ever be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Everyone who has cancer gets the same kind of treatment.

There are many different types of cancer. The type of treatment a person receives depends on several individual factors, including cancer type and stage and a personal’s overall health and medical history. Because our bodies are different and we react differently to different things, cancer treatment varies from person to person.

Cell phones and other radio waves cause cancer.

Many studies that have been done to test the effects of cell phones on our brain have been controversial and inconclusive. Since cell phones emit radio frequency energy from their antennas, some are concerned our bodies absorb this energy. However, studies have failed to find any scientific evidence that shows an increased risk of brain tumors or other cancers in the head and neck region from using cell phones.

Cancer is hereditary.

Cancer may occur often in families, but cancer itself is not inherited. Some people are born with a specific gene mutation that they inherit from their parents and which puts them at a higher risk of developing cancer. Yet, only about 5-10 percent of all cancers result from inherited gene defects. More likely, family members may share certain risk factors which increase cancer risk, like exposure to a specific toxin such as cigarette smoke.

Cancer spreads when it is exposed to air.

One of the most common cancer myths is that when a tumor is exposed to air, it will spread during surgery — this is false. Cancer spreads by getting into the blood stream and traveling to other parts of the body.

There is nothing I can do to prevent cancer.

Nothing has ever been found that is proven to prevent every type of cancer, but your lifestyle can make a big difference. Avoiding the use of tobacco, eating a healthy diet, being active, and maintaining a regular schedule of screenings and checkups can help you reduce your risk.

What cancer myths have you heard? Tell us in the below comments.

Find more about cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Leave a Comment


7 things to remember when visiting someone with cancer

Although you may feel nervous and uneasy about visiting a friend with cancer, your support can make a real difference.

Read More


Easy ways to avoid getting sick this winter

It’s that time of year again.

Read More

HD Cancer Breast Reconstruction

Breast reconstruction 101: Q&A with Dr. Lucio Pavone

There are many options available for women to renew and restore confidence and self-esteem.

Read More