When we’re all doing our best to lead a healthy lifestyle and reduce our risk of developing cancer, some of the health rumours that are circling round really aren’t helpful.
And whilst some cancer myths are very easy to spot, others can be more tricky. We’ve talked to those in the know in our Research Team to bring you all the facts and answer some of the more frequently asked questions.
Can humans catch cancer from one another?
No known cancers can be passed from person to person. The only exception the scientific community know of is in very rare cases where organ donation or tissue donation has resulted in cancer being passed from a donor to a recipient. Interestingly enough, the only reported cancers which can be passed from creature to creature are in the mussel and clam and Tasmanian Devil populations. Unlucky, Taz.
It is important for us to mention at this point that whilst cancer is not infectious in the sense that it can never be caught in the same way as, say, the common cold, infections with certain viruses can lead to increased risks of some cancers (like the HPV infection putting women at a higher risk of developing cervical cancer). So, while some viral infections can increase your risk of very specific cancer types, you’ll never catch breast cancer for example by touching a person with that diagnosis.
Can cancer develop from a knock or a bruise?
Cancer develops from a single cell which malfunctions and keeps dividing; it never develops from bruises or bumps. The origins of this particular myth are probably derived from when people injure themselves and during the scanning or treatment of that particular injury, the cancer is picked up. It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that the injury was the cause of the cancer but the reality is, of course, that the cancer was there before the injury but hadn’t yet been spotted.
If you have cancer should you cut out all sugar to starve cancer cells?
Whilst it is true that cancer cells do use more sugar energy than other cells, the human body is a complex system. Research has shown that whether you maintain, reduce, or completely cut out sugar in your diet, there are no discernible patterns that show that cancer growth rate is impacted. It is true that cancer cells need a lot of glucose, but so do all of our other healthy cells too. The reason why health officials suggest to avoid excess sugar in our diets however, is because being overweight increases the risk of developing several cancers. And higher sugar intake can, in turn, lead to becoming overweight or obese. So when it comes to sugar, eating it in moderation is always best.
Should you become a vegetarian to avoid getting cancer?
No doubt you’ve heard the reports on limiting how much red meat you eat (beef, pork, lamb and particularly processed meats such as ham, bacon, salami etc.) in order to reduce your risk of certain cancers. Studies show that no more than 500g of red meat should be consumed per week and that diets balanced with plenty of fruit, veg and whole grains are the way forward in terms of healthy eating. There is no evidence, however, to say that consumption of lean poultry or fish increases cancer risks. It’s worth pointing out that a carefully balanced vegetarian diet can also provide everything the body needs to be healthy. So while there’s no need to start running to the Quorn section in the supermarket, you could consider cutting back on some of your meaty meals.
Are superfoods a guaranteed protection against cancer?
It’s been pointed out before and, doubtless, it’ll be pointed out again, that Superfoods don’t actually exist. Depressingly enough, it’s a marketing term used to sell produce rather than having any proper kind of scientific basis. As the NHS points out in its online advice on Superfoods: “Many of us want to believe that eating a single fruit or vegetable containing a certain antioxidant will zap a diseased cell”. And it’s this ‘belief’ that can send us running to the supermarket to fill our trollies to the brim with everything from goji berries and wheatgrass, to green tea and broccoli. As always, there’s no single dietary Holy Grail when it comes to cancer prevention, it’s that golden mix of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle that is most important.
You can find out more information about cancer and specifically cancer in Yorkshire here.