MYTH OF THE MONTH

 

APRIL 2018

 

MYTH: You do not need to worry about getting certain cancers if you have no family history of them.

 

TRUTH: Although some types of cancers may have a family genetic component this does not guarantee that a person will not get certain cancers even when family history is clean. Due to the fact that sometimes a person may be the first in their family line to develop the genetic component it is essential to get your regular cancer screenings as recommended by your doctor.

 

MARCH 2018

 

MYTH:Prostate cancer grows so slowly that most patients die of other causes instead of the cancer.

 

TRUTH: There are many different types of prostate cancer. Although it is true that some of them are slow-growing tumors it is equally true that others are faster and more aggressive. Therefore it is very important for men and transgendered women to have regular prostate cancer screenings according to their doctors' recommendations, and to follow up quickly with a biopsy if something is found.

 

 

FEBRUARY 2018

 

MYTH: Wearing a bra can cause breast cancer.


TRUTH: This myth became popular in the mid 1990's due to a book titled “Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras” written by medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer and his wife, Soma Grismaijer (neither one of them are a medical doctor nor a cancer researcher). The authors claimed that women who wore bras had a significantly higher risk of developing breast cancer than women who did not wear them. The supposition was that the bras restricted the natural circulation of lymph fluid draining down and out from the breasts resulting in the congestion of fluids in the breasts. Since one of the purposes of the lymph system is to help remove toxins and waste from the body, it was their belief that this congestion would build up toxins in the breasts leading to the development of cancer. The problem is that their study on the matter was full of major flaws: (1) Due to valves in the lymph vessel system lymph fluid does not flow down into the breasts, it flows up and out of them, draining into the subclavian vein (located under the collar bone) and into the blood. This eliminates the hazard of lymph fluids pooling in the breast. (2) Throughout the study the authors did not include known variables in personal risk in the women such as age, family history, genetics, race, past radiation exposure, hormonal factors, etc. which could heavily influence the results. (3) Although they compared the high incidence of breast cancer with American bra wearers to the low incidence of cancer in non-wearers in other cultures, they did not consider factors in the Western lifestyle of Americans that increases risk such as diet, obesity, etc.1 (4) Their study did not include a control group for purposes of comparison in risk. Without this basis of comparison they could not give an accurate assessment on the matter.

Researchers have investigated Singer and Grismaijer's claims to confirm whether their suppositions were valid. One group of researchers found that restriction of lymph fluid around the axilla (armpit) area due to lymph node removal during melanoma treatment does not increase risk of breast cancer.2 Another group of researchers published a population study which specifically looked at whether bra wearing is a factor in the development of two common forms of breast cancer: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma (ILC). This study “found no evidence that any aspect of bra wearing is associated with risk of either IDC or ILC breast cancer.3 And, interestingly, a study published before Singer and Grismaijer released their book showed that it is age, obesity and breast size (thus mammary gland size) that increased the risk for cancer, not bra wearing in itself.4

1 Though they did mention some primitive cultures who have begun wearing bras showing an increase in cancer risk, they neglected to consider that these cultures have also assimilated other western habits, such as diet routines, that are known to heavily influence cancer risk.
2 Axillary Lymphatic Disruption Does Not Increase Risk of Breast Carcinoma (Gansler & Jemal, 2009)
3 Bra Wearing Not Associated With Breast Cancer Risk: A Population-based Case-control Study (Chen, et al, 2014)
4 Breast Size, Handedness, and Breast Cancer Risk (Hsieh & Trichopoulos, 1991)

 

JANUARY 2018

MYTH: Some cancers can be contagious

TRUTH: Human cancers are not spread between people by breathing, sneezing, coughing, kissing, touch, sexual activity or exchange of other bodily fluids. However, because some cancers can occur as the end result of certain infections there is some confusion as to whether these cancers are contagious. Let's take a quick look at how it actually works:

Using one example, there is a category of virus known as the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Some types of HPV increase the risk of developing cancers in the anus, cervix, penis, or throat – this is how: A person becomes infected with these types of HPV through sexual activity with an infected partner. If his or her immune system does not detect and destroy the infection it becomes an ongoing infection. This ongoing infection causes long-term inflammation; long-term inflammation can cause mutations in healthy cells. These mutations, in turn, may eventually lead to the kinds of mutations which develop into cancer. This can take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to occur, though not all carriers of the virus will develop cancer. In other words, you will not catch HPV-related cancers by having sex with infected partners, however you may still pick up the HPV virus which then puts you at risk for possible development of your own cancer later on. Since your own developed cancer will be from your own body cells (and thus containing your own DNA), it is not a cancer you “caught” from someone else (otherwise the cancer cells would have their DNA).

Viruses which can lead to the development of cancer include: Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis-B, Hepatitis-C, HPV, Herpes virus-8, and Human-T Lymphotropic Virus Type-1.1 Take note that some of these are not spread by sexual activity. If you are concerned whether you have been infected with any of these viruses we strongly advise that you speak to your doctor regarding your risk of infection and what you should do.

 

1Viruses and Human Cancer (Liao, 2006)


DECEMBER 2017

MYTH: Eating sugar will make your cancer worse

TRUTH: The idea that sugar intake fuels cancer growth is an oversimplification of how sugar and cancer work. The idea is that cancer cells need glucose, and sugar contains glucose, therefore sugar feeds cancer. In truth, it is not such a simple matter -- let me explain: Every single one of our body cells needs the energy from glucose in order to function properly; it is a primary source of fuel that your body cannot live without. Glucose doesn't come solely from sugar as it can also be synthesized in the body from other carbohydrates such as grains and fruits. The problem is that cancer cells, which used to be healthy body cells, tend to grow and multiply more quickly than healthy cells, ergo cancer cells need more glucose in order to keep up with their own growth (likewise, they also need more amino acids in fats, for the same reason). If a patient decides to eliminate all carbohydrates from his or her diet though, this will starve the healthy cells as well as the cancer cells, thus weakening the body and putting one's health at further risk. Your healthy cells cannot fight the cancer cells in such a condition; therefore it is unsafe to eliminate all glucose-related foods in one's diet when fighting cancer. The key is balance: Eat only enough carbohydrates and sugars through the day to keep your healthy cells strong and take care not to overconsume so as to not have an excess of glucose available. I strongly advise patients to consult with a registered dietitian or a properly educated nutritionist to learn how to balance sugars and carbohydrates during cancer treatment.
For more information on cancer's relationship with sugar please click the following link:

http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/05/15/sugar-and-cancer-what-you-need-to-know/

NOVEMBER 2017

MYTH: Men do not get breast cancer

TRUTH: Although the vast majority of breast cancer patients are female, one man in every thousand will also develop breast cancer in his lifetime. Male breast tissue is very similar to females, including the presence of nipples and milk ducts, (though most men do not have developed lobules – round sacs that actually produce the milk). Although men of all races are able to develop breast cancer, statistics show that black men tend to have a higher incidence, Asian men tend to have a lower incidence, and white and Hispanic men fall somewhere in the middle. Famous men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past include: Richard Roundtree (“Shaft”), Peter Criss (of KISS fame), and Montel Williams (talk show host). Symptoms of male breast cancer may include: Painless lump or thickening in the chest area, unexplained change in the size or shape of the breasts/chest, changes in chest skin (puckering, dimpling, redness, etc.), nipple changes such as scaliness, rash, or soreness, and nipple discharge.

OCTOBER 2017

MYTH: Women need a Pap test (a.k.a. Papanicolaou test) each year to check for cervical cancer.

TRUTH: A "Pap test" is when a small sample of cells from a woman's cervix (the bottom "neck" of the uterus) are taken in order to check for cervical cancer. A positive result indicates the presence of cancer. If a woman has already had a negative test then she is not usually required to have another test for at least 3-5 years, depending upon her age. Exceptions to this may include if a woman becomes infected with specific diseases (such as genital warts) or if she begins to experience unusual bleeding, discharge, or odor from her vagina. I strongly encourage women to have a discussion about cervical cancer with their gynecologist to assess for risk and frequency of testing.

SEPTEMBER 2017

MYTH: Cancer is a modern disease caused by Nazi medical experiments.

TRUTH: The existence of cancer has been known since ancient times. The oldest known documented cancer treatments were found in two Egyptian medical scrolls known as the Edwin Smith Papyrus (1600 B.C.) and the Ebers Papyrus (1500 B.C.). The Edwin Smith Papyrus was more medically based and specifically described the treatment of breast cancer tumors.1 The Ebers Papyrus was a mix of natural remedies and magical incantations; it described the treatment of tumors primarily through surgical removal and/or cauterization.2 The ancient Greeks were likewise aware of cancer's existence; The “Father of Medicine”, Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.), began using the word "carcinos"3 to describe a variety of cancers seen during his day. Although the Greeks believed cancer was caused by an “excess of black bile”, (probably due to the oozing of dark, foul fluids from some tumors) they did eventually have a basic understanding of treating the disease. For example, Greek physician Galen (130 A.D. - 210 A.D.) noted that breast cancers tended to occur in menopausal women, and that surgical removal and cauterization of tumors needed to be complete in order to effect a cure. Skipping ahead several centuries, in 1863 Rudolph Virchow connected inflammation with cancer and also identified an excess of white blood cells as a sign of leukemia; in 1886 Brazilian Dr.Hilário de Gouvêa noted evidence that certain cancers can be genetically passed to children, and in 1928 George Papanicolaou4 discovered that cervical cancer can be detected by examination of a sampling of cervical cells under a microscope. Clearly, cancer has been identified, treated, and observed for a very long time before the Nazi regime began in 1933.

1 The Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus, Published in Facsimile and Hieroglyphic Transliteration with Translation and Commentary in Two Volumes, by James Henry Breasted, Volume One, . pp. 403-405
2The Papyrus Ebers; Translated from the German Version by Cyril P. Bryan ; with an introduction by G. Elliot Smith. Smith, G. Elliot., Bryan, C. P. (Cyril Phillips)., Joachim, H. (Heinrich) , pp. 145-150
3Carcinos”, and later “Cancer” are words meaning “Crab”, due to the appearance of some solid tumors that had veins growing out from them.
4“Pap test” or “Pap smear” is named for this man.


AUGUST 2017

MYTH: Cancer is a man-made disease

TRUTH: It is a commonly circulated idea that cancer is a man-made disease. This idea began with a press release from Manchester University published in 2010 in which investigative scientists have stated “In industrialised societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.” and, in reference to the ancient Egyptian societies it was stated “In an ancient society lacking surgical intervention, evidence of cancer should remain in all cases. The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity, indicating that cancer causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialization.” The problem is that the scientists are blatantly ignoring the fact that life expectancy in those ancient societies was significantly shorter than today's numbers. For example, the average life expectancy of an ancient Egyptian male was 34 years and for females it was only 30 years. In contrast, the National Cancer Institute has published findings that the vast majority of average ages during initial cancer diagnosis are well past the 34th year of life. In other words, the population of the ancient Egyptians simply did not live long enough to develop cancer, on the average. Ergo, the above-mentioned press release and “scientific” statements are severely flawed since there is not enough age-related comparisons between the ancient and modern societies to draw from.

JULY 2017

MYTH: Chemotherapy does not work 97% of the time.

TRUTH: This falsehood originates from an Australian review of studies published in 2004 which stated that the “5-year survival benefit attributable solely to cytotoxic chemotherapy in adult malignancies” is only a little over 2%.1 The review of studies can be found here. Although this review was intended to evaluate the contribution of chemotherapy to cancer survival rates the researchers evaluated a scant 22 types of cancer2 (there are over 100 kinds of cancers), and of those most of them are either not typically treated with chemotherapy or use chemotherapy only as a secondary treatment, not the primary. On top of this the review also purposely omitted leukemias and most lymphomas, which are known to be very responsive to chemotherapy. For a review that was intended to evaluate the contribution of chemotherapy to survival rates the researchers clearly fell short. This was noted and questioned the following year by a group of oncologists3 who further noted that other flaws in the review included using only newly-diagnosed patients, omitting important information regarding adjuvant chemo treatments, and providing misinformation regarding some of the cancers evaluated. This group of oncologists went on to state "The contribution of this type of analysis, with pooling of all cancer patients, is questionable and potentially misleading."

1The Contribution of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy to 5-year Survival in Adult Malignancies (Morgan, 2004)
2The cancers evaluated were: Anal, bladder, brain, breast, carcinoma of unknown primary site, cervical, colon, esophageal, head and neck, Hodgkin's disease, kidney, lung, malignant melanoma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, ovarian, pancreatic, protstate, rectal, soft tissue carcinoma, stomach, testicular, and uterine cancers.
3Clinical Oncology, June 2005, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp. 294, “The Contribution of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy to the Management of Cancer” (Mileshkin, et al)


JUNE 2017

MYTH: Pharmaceutical companies suppress the cure for cancer because they want to keep making money from the current products instead.

TRUTH: A number of cancer research organizations are non-profit entities, which means they have nothing to gain and everything to lose if they suppress a known cure for cancer. This includes well-known organizations such as the American Cancer Society, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Cancer Research Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, just to name a few. Another thing to understand is that "cancer" is not a singular disease; the word "cancer" is actually an umbrella category for more than one hundred diseases which have a common trait: The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Because cancer can occur in any type of body cell (bone, skin, lung, muscle, brain, blood, etc.) and each kind of cell has strengths and weaknesses different from the other kinds of cells, the different kinds of cancers each need different kinds of treatments in order to halt the disease process. Even cancers associated with the same location may differ from one another. For example, there are several main types of breast cancer (ER+/ER-, PR+/PR-, HER2+/HER2-, triple negative, and inflammatory breast cancers) and each type needs a specialized plan as the treatments are not interchangeable for all breast cancers. Because the umbrella term "cancer" is actually a collection of a large number of diseases with a common trait this means there cannot be one single cure for "cancer"; we would need to have a cure for each and every kind before we can say that "cancer" is cured. This is indeed a daunting task, and this is why we do not yet have a "cure for cancer." However, due to the rigorous research being performed on the roster of cancers we do have the fortune of having better therapies and treatments available for us to increase individual cure and survival rates.

MAY 2017

MYTH: Cancer is caused by too much acid in the body.

TRUTH: The concept of an acid diet began in the late 1800's when Pierre Eugène Marcellin

Berthelot, a French Chemist, conducted experiments to calculate the amount of calories in food. To do this he placed food in a pressurized device called a bomb calorimeter and incinerated his samples leaving nothing but ash behind. Note that when water is mixed with the ash one can measure the pH level of the substance to decide whether it is acid or base. Subsequently in 1912 a paper was published by H. C. Sherman and A.O. Gettler1 which classified foods as acid or base according to the pH levels taken from ash in the bomb calorimeter. A copy of the paper can be read here. Generally speaking, it found that fruits and vegetables tended to leave a base ash while meats and grains tended to leave an acidic ash. The current beliefs regarding “acidic” diet are based primarily on this paper, which isn't scientifically sound. Several years later Nobel prize winner Dr. Otto Warburg noted that oftentimes cancer cells have lower respiration and tend to live in an acidic environment giving rise to the theory that low oxygen and acidic environments cause cancer. 2 Since fermentation of sugar results in the formation of lactic acid he thought that the presence of this acid caused the cancer to form. Modern science, though, has shown that in reality it works the other way around, the cancer cells actually cause the acidity to appear. Let me explain: Just like any other body cell, cancer cells need a constant supply of oxygen and the ability to metabolize sugar for energy to survive. This is why tumors create their own system of blood vessels in order to transport oxygen and sugars to the tumor cells – if they did not, they could not grow. Although the tumor does create its own network of blood vessels they oftentimes outgrow their network before they can build more vessels, creating the need for them to have an alternative way to metabolize sugars in the meantime: Fermentation. Although the process of fermentation is not as efficient, it is all they have while additional blood vessels are being built; and this fermentation process creates the acidic environment around them. Because there are not enough blood vessels yet formed to flush this acid out the tumor site remain rather acidic until it forms enough new vessels. Ergo, it is not acid that causes the cancer, it is the cancer that causes the acid. Later research showed that neither the presence nor the lack of acidity affects the growth of cancer cells.3 Therefore, the bottom line is that acids do not cause cancer and do not advance a cancer's growth.

1The Balance of Acid-forming and Base-forming Elements in Foods, and its Relation to Ammonia Metabolism (H. C. Sherman, A. O. Gettler, 1912)
2The Prime Cause and Prevention of Cancer by Otto Warburg. 1966 annual meeting of Nobelists at Lindau, Germany
3Early and Late Apoptosis Events in Human Transformed and Non-transformed Colonocytes are Independent on Intracellular Acidification. (Wenzel, et al, 2004)


APRIL 2017

MYTH: Cancer needs a low-oxygen environment to thrive, therefore you should be treated with oxygen-based therapies to help cure your cancer.

TRUTH: This idea is based on a theory originated from Nobel prize recipient Dr. Otto Warburg, M.D. which was published in the 1930's. Dr. Warburg noted that cancer cells have a lower respiration rate than healthy cells, thus he theorized that cancer cells would die when exposed to greater concentrations of oxygen. Later, however, Dr. Warburg's theory was shown to be in error: In 1971 Dr. Moses Judah Folkman discovered that cancer tumors are actually dependent on angiogenesis – the formation of blood vessels connecting the tumor to the body's regular circulatory system – in order to thrive.1 Research based on Dr. Folkman's discoveries has shown that cancer tumors do, indeed, create their own network of blood vessels and will only thrive if these blood vessels are allowed to remain. A tumor's vessels are always connected directly to the body's regular circulatory system, thus the growing tumor is receiving the same level of oxygenation as the healthy cells, ergo it is thriving in an oxygenated environment. As a matter of fact, cancer treatments which block the process of angiogenesis in tumors (thus cutting off their oxygen supply) is one of the most effective methods in destroying tumors. Although Dr. Warburg was a brilliant doctor and scientist, he was clearly wrong on this one particular theory.

1Tumor Angiogenesis: Therapeutic Implications” (Folkman, M.D. 1971)


MARCH 2017

MYTH: Shark cartilage can cure cancer, this is why sharks do not get cancer.

TRUTH: Although preliminary research observed that powdered shark cartilage, when applied directly to a tumor, suppresses blood vessel growth in tumors (“angiogenesis”), thus suppressing tumor growth,1 oral consumption of shark cartilage does not give the same results. Shark cartilage molecules are too large to be absorbed through the digestive system, therefore it cannot enter the bloodstream and affect tumors. Clinical trials have proven that oral supplementation of shark cartilage does not suppress tumors.2 3 4 Also, it is proven that sharks, do indeed, develop cancer. 5

1Shark Cartilage Contains Inhibitors of Tumor Angiogenesis [tumor blood vessel formation] (Lee, Langer, 1993)
2Phase I/II Trial of the Safety and Efficacy of Shark Cartilage in the Treatment of Advanced Cancer. (Miller, 1998)
3Evaluation of Shark Cartilage in Patients with Advanced Cancer: A North Central Cancer Treatment Group Trial (Loprinzi, 2005)
4Chemoradiotherapy With or Without AE-941 in Stage III Non-small Cell Lung Cancer: A Randomized Phase III Trial. (Lu, 2010)
5Shark Cartilage, Cancer, and the Growing Threat of Pseudoscience. (Ostrander, 2004)