Cancer Organizations Spread Major Myths About Cancer

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Organizations designated to disseminate accurate information about cancer actually spread most of the modern myths surrounding this disease, says Bill Sardi, author of the book You Don't Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore ( ).

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All of these are falsehoods

Cancer information bureaus claim cancer is not contagious, surgery doesn't spread cancer, sugar doesn't make cancer grow faster, hair dye doesn't cause cancer, and use of sunscreen lotion prevents skin cancer. "All of these are falsehoods," says Sardi.

Cancer is contagious

"Cancer certainly is indirectly contagious," says Sardi. Up to 15% of cancers are caused by germs, says Sardi, who says a whole book documents that fact. (Microbes and Malignancy, Oxford University Press, 1999) Lymphomas, sarcoma, gastric carcinoma, liver and cervical cancer all emanate from viral or bacterial infection, says Sardi. Examples are oral, throat and cervical cancers which are caused by the Human papilloma virus and gastric cancer which is unequivocally caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori. Furthermore, masses caused by Mycobacteria tuberculosis are indistinguishable from cancer. TB may be a major cause of cancer. [Quarterly Journal Medicine 100(1):59, 2007; European J Gynaecology Oncology 24(6):561-2, 2003; Acta Neurochir (Wien). 145(6):513-7, 2003; Diagnostic Cytopathology 28(2):107-9, 2003
Does surgery cause cancer to spread?

A survey indicates 41% of Americans believe surgery can cause cancer to spread. Cancer agencies say that is fiction. A physician spokesperson for the American Cancer Society says this myth "really keeps patients from potentially receiving what could be a definitive, if not curative, surgery." But surgery is not a cure for cancer, and there is published evidence surgery does indeed facilitate the spread of tumors.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School clearly state that "surgical wounding associated with the removal of experimental primary cancers can trigger angiogenesis (new blood vessels) in previously dormant micro-metastatic tumor deposits, which can result in the acceleration of relapse and death." (Lancet 357: 1048, 2001)

It is said that surgery "kick starts" hidden small tumors. Surgeons know this and often prescribe pre-operative chemotherapy, or anti-estrogen drugs, to limit the effect surgery has upon accelerated growth of remaining small tumors following surgery. {Lancet 347: 260, 1996)

In a report entitled "Excisional surgery for cancer sure: therapy at a cost," researchers indicate there is "strong" evidence that tumor removal influences the growth of remaining tumors. (Lancet 4: 760-68, 2003)

A report in Medical Hypotheses states that "surgery can increase the number of circulating tumor cells and induce an immunosuppressive effect that might facilitate metastatic spread. The process of wound healing can stimulate growth factors that have been shown to accelerate tumor cell growth. This situation is a double-edged sword." (Medical Hypotheses 67: 1054-59, 2006)

Researchers in Ireland report that surgical removal of a primary tumor is often followed by a faster and more aggressive tumor at the same site. (Annals Thoracic Surgery 80: 1046-50, 2005)
Even a simple biopsy is invasive enough to activate the wound-healing process and accelerate tumor progression. (Lancet 357: 1048, 2001)

Finally, Georgetown University doctors report that surgery carries an increased risk for cancer weeks or even years after an operation. (Anesthesiology Clinics North America, June 2006)

Hair dye and cancer.

The American Cancer Society says hair dyes don't cause cancer. But this so-called myth persists. After examining 79 different studies, a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says "We did not find strong evidence of a marked increase in the risk of cancer among personal hair dye users." (Journal American Medical Assn 293: 2516-25, 2005)
However, a study conducted by researcher at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health found that the use of any hair dye in the month before and/or during pregnancy is associated with a modest increased risk of neuroblastoma in offspring. (Cancer Causes Controls 16: 743-48, 2005) Neuroblastoma is a tumor containing embryonic nerve cells.

When data was pooled from different population studies, it was found that "personal use of hair dye products increases bladder cancer risk by 22% to 50%." (Public Health Reports 120: 31-38, 2005)

A recent study shows that the use of hair dyes is associated with adult acute leukemia and that more frequent use and long-term use increased the risks for this type of cancer. Non-permanent hair dyes were not associated with leukemia, but long duration of permanent hair dye "may have an impact on the risk of leukemia." (American Journal Epidemiology 160: 19-25, 2004)

Another study could not completely dismiss data linking hair dye use with a modest increased risk for bladder cancer. (International Journal Cancer 109: 581-86, 2004)

It's possible the hair care industry knows why hair dye is linked with cancer since a recent study shows that the increased risk for Hodgkin's lymphoma was only found among women who started using hair coloring products prior to 1980. (American Journal Epidemiology 159: 148-54, 2004) It's possible some carcinogens have been removed from currently made products.
The data is not clear enough to say no to the idea that hair dye may increase cancer risk, even if only by a modest degree.

Does sugar promote cancer growth?

According to the American Cancer Society, sugar doesn't make cancer grow faster.
Dr. John T. Ely of the University of Washington decided to test whether sugar abets tumor growth. Dr. Ely found that patients in remission from tumors have lower blood sugar levels. (Integrative Cancer Therapy 4: 25-31, 2005)

Dr. Ely and colleagues went on to conduct an animal test. Mice were placed on three different diets designed to produce different blood sugar levels and then injected with highly aggressive breast tumor cells. Seventy days later 16 of 24 mice on a high sugar diet had succumbed to cancer, 8 of 24 mice on a normal sugar diet died and only 1 of 20 mice on a low-sugar diet died. (Biochemistry Biophysical Research Communications 132: 1174-79, 1985)

Dr. Ely has taken breast cancer patients, placed them on a low sugar diet, added supplemental vitamin C and treated their tumors with radiation, and demonstrated a prolonged survival. (Integrative Cancer Therapy 4: 25-31, 2005)

Does sunscreen use prevent skin cancer?

When Americans were surveyed, 43% said that sunscreen use can prevent skin cancer. The ACS says: "The use of sunscreen on a daily basis is a good practice for reducing skin cancer risk."

Yet, when researchers scrutinized the issue of whether sunscreen use prevents skin cancer, they found that there is no association between sunscreen use and the development of malignant melanoma, the most feared form of skin cancer. (British Journal Dermatology 153: 378-81, 2005) When researchers analyzed data from many studies they concluded that "the melanoma protective potential of sunscreens cannot be proven using the existing evidence." (Photodermatology Photoimmunology Photomedicine 18: 153-56, 2002)

The big shocker is that 95% of solar radiation is UV-A energy, while most sunscreens protect from the harsher UV-B rays. UV-A may also induce skin cancer. [Journal Investigative Dermatology 121:869-75, 2003] The latest study shows that UV-B rays only partially contribute to the development of melanoma. UV-A is also involved. (Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 97: 1822-1831, December 21, 2005)

SPF (sun protection factor) refers to the ability of a product to block out UV-B rays. So there is a flaw in the design of the sunscreen products themselves. (Postgraduate Medicine 116: July 2004)
Melanoma was rare up until the 1950s when sunscreen use began as "tanning lotions." Now there are over 40,000 cases of melanoma and 7,000 deaths from melanoma reported annually. Rising trends in the incidence of and mortality from melanoma began in the 1970s and 1980s, when sunscreens with high sun protection factors were more widely used. (Annals Epidemiology 3: 103-10, 1993)

Blockage of UV-B sun rays by sunscreen lotion inhibits production of vitamin D in the skin. (American Journal Clinical Nutrition 80: 1678-88S, 2004) According to a recent report, frequent regular sun exposure acts to cause cancers that have a 0.3% death rate with 2,000 U.S. fatalities per year and acts to prevent cancers that have death rates from 20-65% with 138,000 U.S. fatalities per year. (Preventive Medicine 22: 132-40, 1993):

A recent study estimates that 50,000-63,000 individuals in the United States and 19,000-25,000 in Britain die prematurely from cancer annually due to insufficient vitamin D. (Photochemistry Photobiology 81: 1276-86, 2005)

For more information about myths that surround cancer read the new book You Don't Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore, offered at


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