The Truth About Cancer
Don't fall for email hoaxes and misinformation. Get the facts about cancer.

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myoh_truthaboutcancer.gif The Truth About Cancer

If you have an email account, chances are you have gotten emails claiming to reveal the truth about products that cause cancer.

Sadly, a lot of people believe some common myths about cancer, its causes and its treatments. These myths can cause needless fear and confusion.  Sometimes, they can keep people from getting treatment they need.

Don't believe everything you read about cancer. If you're not sure of the facts, check them on reputable sites such as the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and

Here are a few common myths about cancer and the truth of the matter.

Myth: An ingredient in many shampoos is known to cause cancer.
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and a similar chemical, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), are detergents. They are known to cause skin and eye irritation, and they can cause diarrhea if you swallow too much of them. Neither chemical has been shown to cause cancer.

Myth: Antiperspirants can cause breast cancer. So can wearing a bra.
Some emails claim that substances in antiperspirants and deodorants are absorbed through the skin by way of nicks from shaving and can lead to cancer. Neither the National Cancer Institute nor the FDA has found any link between antiperspirants or deodorants and breast cancer.  Likewise, there is no evidence that wearing any type of bra causes breast cancer.

Myth: Cell phones cause cancer.
Cell phones and other electronic devices do not cause cancer. Studies to date do not show a consistent link between cell phone use and cancer.

Myth: Cancer is always painful.
Some cancers never cause pain, while others cause pain only in the late stages. When cancer does cause pain, it's often because a tumor is pressing on a nerve or has invaded a bone. Cancer pain can usually be controlled with medications and other treatments.

Myth: If someone in your family has cancer, you are likely to get the same kind of cancer.
A family history of cancer may mean you are at increased risk.  But it does not mean you are certain to get cancer. Cancer can have many possible causes, and relatively few cases are the result of inherited factors. If you are concerned about cancer in your family, be sure to talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you understand your personal risk of cancer.

Myth: Some people are too old for cancer treatment.
Age alone is not the only factor in cancer treatment. Doctors consider a person's overall health in making treatment decisions.

Myth: Treating cancer with surgery can cause the cancer to spread.
Surgery does not cause cancer to spread. Surgery is often the best treatment for cancer. Don't let this myth keep you from getting surgery if you need it.

Myth: Cancer is a death sentence.
Many people with cancer survive for many years after their diagnosis. Thanks to improved screening, many cancers are found early, when they can often be cured. Ask your doctor which screening tests you should have and how often you should have them.

By Lila Havens, Contributing Writer
Created on 07/21/2005
Updated on 10/08/2012
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology. Cancer myths.
  • National Cancer Institute National Institutes of Health. Cell phones and cancer risk.
  • National Cancer Institute National Institutes of Health. NCI health information tip sheet for writers: Cancer myths.
  • American Cancer Society. 5 most common cancer myths.
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