Cancer is a dreaded disease and like anything that causes fear without knowledge, the disease provides a fertile ground for myths and rumours. There are many popular misconceptions about how the disease starts and spreads, but have no scientific basis. They might make sense because those ideas are rooted in traditional theories.
But erroneous ideas about the disease and blindly believing what others tell you can lead to unnecessary worries and be an obstacle to taking proper and timely decisions. Some of the widespread surrounding cancer are:
If there is cancer in my family history I may get cancer too.
Not really. Cancer is caused by abnormal changes in the genes. Only 5 to 10 per cent of cancers are caused by harmful mutations inherited from parents. In families where cancer-causing mutations have been inherited, several family members often develop the same type of cancer. These cancers are classified as ‘hereditary or ‘familial’ cancers.
If no one in my family has had cancer, I am risk free.
No, you’re not. 90 to 95 percent of cancers are caused by genetic mutations that might occur throughout a person’s lifetime. They may occur in you as well irrespective of whether they occurred in your parents in your family. Cancer is caused by various factors such as diet, lifestyle and environmental influence. Your risk of developing cancer depends on your exposure to the harmful effects of these factors.
Cancer is contagious
Cancer itself is not contagious. However, some cancers are caused by bacteria and viruses, which can spread from person to person. Certain type of the human pappilomavirus (HPV) are known to cause cervical, anal and some types of neck and head cancers. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses can increase the risk of liver cancer, while bacteria like H. Pylori can develop stomach cancer in a person infected by it.
The distinction is that while these viruses and bacteria can cause cancers after spreading from person to person, the cancer itself cannot be spread likewise.
Your food has no relation to cancer. Your diet cannot prevent it, cause it or help in treatment
Countless studies have shown that foods high in refined sugar, unhealthy fats and refined sodium can influence genetic mutation that leads to cancer. Cancer cells consume more glucose and use it for fuel than any other cell in the human body. On the other hand, eating organic foods with balanced vitamins and nutrients increases your chances of preventing cancer and beating the ‘killer disease’ in case you still develop it due to other factors.
Obesity is not linked to cancer
For countries like the USA, where two-thirds of the population is obese, this can be a very dangerous misconception. Experts are unanimous in linking hundreds of cancer cases to excess weight. Like sugar, fat cells secrete a compound called ‘estradiol’, which the cancer cells thrive on.
Cancer treatment is worse than the disease
Some cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation procedures can cause serious side effects like hair loss, nausea, etc. and may seem extremely unpleasant. However, recent advances have produced many chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies, which the body can now better tolerate. As a result, the earlier side-effects are less prevalent or severe.
Furthermore, dealing with the side effects, called palliative care has emerged as one of the focal points of cancer management. Proper palliative emphasises on quality of life. A person feels more comfortable at any stage of the disease while undergoing all forms of treatment. Modern cancer treatment tries to minimise disruption of the patient’s daily routine as far as possible.
Cancer needs sugar to grow and spread
No studies have conclusively demonstrated that eating sugar makes the cancer grow and spread rapidly. All cells in the body, whether healthy or cancerous, depend on sugar to develop and function. But eating sugar has not been shown to speed up the growth of cancer, just as a sugar-free diet does not slow its expansion.
However, it should be kept in mind that consuming too many sugar calories does lead to excess weight, obesity and diabetes, all of which increase the risk of developing cancer and other health problems.
Thus, the snapshot of this presentation is that to lower your chances of getting cancer eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and have regular cancer screenings. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
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