Many of us experience information overload about the latest health research, especially when it comes to cancer. Below are some of the most common cancer myths. We separate the facts from the fiction, so you can be your own health advocate.
Myth #10 - Cooking BBQ does not increase your cancer risk more than any other cooking method.
Fact: Cooking meat over an open flame on the backyard grill produces two chemicals that are considered carcinogens (namely, heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Consider other cooking methods when you can, then try these tips when the grill beckons, which most experts agree is safe in moderation.
Myth #9 - Your family history is the most important risk factor for cancer.
Fact: The majority of people who develop cancer have no family members with a history of the disease. In fact, a recent study found that lifestyle choices – like eating healthy and getting more exercise – could prevent one-third of all cancers.
Myth #8 - You can’t get lung cancer unless you use tobacco.
Fact: While tobacco use is the leading cause of lung cancer, up to 20% of people who develop this disease never smoked or used chewing tobacco.
Myth #7 - A woman’s cancer risk comes from her mother and a man’s from his father.
Fact: Your cancer risk comes from both sides of the family. Always ask about both parents and all of your aunts, uncles and grandparents when assessing your family health history.
Myth #6 - Women who get the cervical cancer vaccine, don't need to have annual gynecologic exams.
Fact: Gardasil, the cervical cancer vaccine, protects against two types of HPV, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. Regular pap smears are still important to detect cancers not covered by the vaccine.
Myth #5 - Skin cancer only develops on areas of the body exposed to the sun.
Fact: Melanoma can develop on parts of the body that get minimal or no sun exposure, like in between the toes, so routine check-ups of your entire body are important.
Myth #4 - One or two drinks a day will help reduce my cancer risk.
Fact: While one drink may be good for your heart, a large-scale study found that any alcohol consumption increased a woman’s risk of developing several types of cancer, including breast and liver.
Myth #3 - Cancer cells should always be removed from the body.
Fact: According to breast cancer pioneer, Dr. Susan Love, and other experts, many people have cancer cells in their bodies that do no harm. Routine screening guidelines attempt to balance the benefits of early detection against the risks of unnecessary treatment.
Myth #2 - Breast cancer is the #1 cause of death in women.
Fact: Women are similar to men in the health concerns that matter most. Heart disease is the number one killer of both sexes. And each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
Myth #1 - After 30 years of research, we’re still losing the war on cancer.
Fact: People are living longer, better quality lives after cancer now than they did in 1975, four years after President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act. Most of this is the result of new drugs and treatments developed through cancer research, as well as better prevention efforts.