Scientists Disproves the Common Myths About Cancer

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 29 2007 1:06 PM

A large number of Americans believe scientifically unproven myths about cancer, and some even think that shampoo and underwire bras cause tumours, according to a survey conducted by the American Cancer Society.

The organization has enlisted 12 common cancer myths by analysing data from a survey of 1,000 US adults, who have never been diagnosed with cancer.

Surprisingly, a large number of subjects agreed with inaccurate or unlikely statements about cancer risk and prevention statements during the survey.

The study, reported in the journal Cancer, also revealed that people with lower educational qualification were more likely to believe the myths, with men being more likely than women to be duped.

It was also observed that communities that were most at the risk of cancer were also the ones that were most likely to be misinformed.

The researchers believe that these unwarranted worries over unproven risk factors can distract attention from the valid risk.

"If people hold erroneous beliefs about risk factors for cancer they might not be making informed decisions for their behaviours," LiveScience quoted lead study author Kevin Stein from American Cancer Society’s Behavioral Research Center in Atlanta, as saying.

The scientists concede that besides individual beliefs, other factors like access to health care and socio-economic status also play an important role in the determination of health behaviour. But they suggest that beliefs can guide actions.

"People's attitudes and beliefs influence their behaviours. If you believe those statements [about smoking] then you can see why some people might engage in risky behaviour like smoking," Stein said.

"What we would like to do is to have people get accurate information and hold accurate beliefs about what are and what are not risk factors for cancer with the hope that will translate into healthy behavioral patterns," he added.

Twelve common cancer myths are:

1. The risk of dying from cancer in the United States is increasing: 67.7 percent say it’s true, 9.8 per cent don't know, the remainder say it’s false

2. Living in a polluted city is a greater risk for lung cancer than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day: 38.7 per cent say it’s true, 18.8 per cent don't know

3. Some injuries can cause cancer later in life: 37.2 per cent say it’s true, 20.9 per cent don't know

4. Electronic devices, like cell phones, can cause cancer in the people who use them: 29.7 per cent say it’s true, 24.7 per cent don't know

5. What someone does as a young adult has little effect on their chance of getting cancer later in life: 24.8 per cent say it’s true, 7.1 per cent don't know

6. Long-time smokers cannot reduce their cancer risk by quitting smoking: 16.2 per cent say it’s true, 5.7 per cent don't know

7. People who smoke low-tar cigarettes have less chance of developing lung cancer than people who smoke regular cigarettes: 14.7 per cent say it’s true, 10.8 per cent don't know

8. Personal hygiene products, like shampoo, deodorant and antiperspirants, can cause cancer: 13.7 per cent say it’s true, 15.3 per cent don't know

9. Getting a mammogram, or using a special X-ray machine to detect breast cancer, can cause cancer of the breast: 10.2 per cent say it’s true, 16.1 per cent don't know

10. Getting a base tan or base coat at a tanning salon will provide protection from skin cancer when you go outside in the sun: 8.4 per cent say it’s true, 13.2 per cent don't know

11. Underwire bras can cause breast cancer: 6.2 per cent say it’s true, 30.9 per cent don't know

12. You cannot get skin cancer from using a tanning booth: 6.2 per cent say it’s true, 18.3 per cent don't know