Common Myths About Cancer Debunked

It is, unfortunately, easy to spread false information about all kinds of topics on the internet. Misconceptions about cancer are particularly prevalent, being the subject of viral social media posts and chain e-mail messages.

To prevent serious consequences, it is important to debunk them and shed light on science-based facts. Here are a few common myths about cancer you may have come across:

Only women are at risk of developing breast cancer

Men are born with a small amount of breast tissue which means they are also at risk of developing breast cancer. The likelihood is, of course, much lower compared to women who have a higher amount of breast tissue — men account for less than 1 percent of all breast cancers.

Men over the age of 60 tend to see a higher incidence, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include liver disease, having a family history of cancer, being obese, taking estrogen-related drugs, etc.

Using antiperspirants could increase the risk of cancer

The National Cancer Institute states that there is no scientific evidence to link antiperspirant use and breast cancer. Aluminum, an ingredient found in antiperspirants, can be toxic in high doses — but the amount you are exposed to when using antiperspirant is too minimal to have any such effect, especially given that your body does not absorb it.

"Your skin is biologically designed to keep all the bad things out, and it actually does a great job at that. It's a really good barrier," Teri Greiling, an associate professor of dermatology at the Oregon Health & Science University, told Tonic

Cancer patients should stay on constant rest during treatment

Patients and even survivors are strongly advised to avoid inactivity. Research has shown that exercise could help counter the physical and psychological effects of cancer as well as the treatment.

Exercise, as an intervention, has been associated with reduced fatigue and an improved quality of life. Your doctor can provide guidance on the most appropriate physical activities to take up given your individual case. 

Of course, non-patients should aim to follow physical activity guidelines to maintain good health. One study from 2016 also linked exercise with a lower risk of 13 types of cancer.

Dark-skinned people do not have to worry about skin cancer

Although skin cancer is more common among lighter-skinned people, having more melanin will not provide complete protection. You will still need to wear sunscreen and learn to spot unusual lesions. Underestimating this risk and dismissing symptoms could make treatment all the more difficult.

"Because many doctors and patients believe people of color are immune to skin cancer, diagnosis is often delayed, sometimes until the disease is advanced and potentially fatal," Dr. Maritza Perez, associate professor of clinical dermatology at Columbia University, told the Skin Cancer Foundation.