Published September 20, 2013
Everyone has their personal theories about cancer's causes and cures—perhaps based on an offhand comment from their doctor, something they read in a blog, that crazy diagnosis their trainer's cousin's girlfriend got.
But what's for real and what's just random?
In our joint survey with Bing, you told us what you've been hearing about the disease, and we took it to two top experts in the field—Dr. Peter Shields, deputy director of Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center and James Cancer Hospital in Columbus; and Dr. Therese Bevers, director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston—to help sort out the fact from the fiction.
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"Eating lots of antioxidants can help offset the effects of my smoking."
Nope. We have yet to establish that antioxidants can prevent cancer, Bevers said. But even if they eventually get a big thumbs-up, smoking is not OK: The habit causes 80 percent of women's lung cancers, and no amount of antioxidants can drop that percentage to zero.
"Your cell phone can give you brain cancer."
Iffy. "The cell phone–cancer link hasn't been directly established, but research is ongoing," Bevers said.
For now, she advises playing it safe: Keep your convos short and use a hands-free device so the phone's not pressed against your head.
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"You can stay up to date on cancer prevention by scouring the Web."
Probably. If you know where to surf. Info on blogs can be sketchy, and even quality websites can't always put breaking news in context. Bevers likes the American Cancer Society (Cancer.org) and National Cancer Institute (Cancer.gov) sites.
"If a product increases cancer risk, it's labeled."
Not necessarily. "The FDA requires definitive evidence to label a product," Bevers said.
And that's tricky: A potential carcinogen may affect only some people, require lots of exposure over time to cause cancer or even be safe at low levels.
"Marijuana can cure some kinds of cancers."
Sorry! Some studies suggest compounds in the drug may keep tumors in check, but they weren't conducted on people.
"Pot doesn't cure cancer," Bevers said. But she notes that it can help cancer patients cope with chemo-induced nausea.
"Taking certain herbs and vitamins helps prevent cancer."
It doesn't look good. "There's no scientific evidence that these things don't work," Shields said.
But studies show that very high doses of some good-for-you nutrients like folate, beta-carotene and calcium can actually increase cancer risk.
"How social you are has a lot to do with cancer risk."
Not true. There's no evidence that social butterflies have a lower risk (or a higher one) than hermits, Shields said. However, cancer patients with a strong support system do seem to fare better. More research will help us understand why.
This article originally appeared on Self.com.