Does microwaving food cause cancer? 13 cancer myths you may have believed

You must have heard that microwaving food may cause cancer. Well, to know how true that is and what are some real causes of cancer, read on!You must have heard that microwaving food may cause cancer. Well, to know how true that is and what are some real causes of cancer, read on!
We’re here to debunk some cancer myths for you! Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Pankaj Kumar Garg Published on: 23 May 2022, 20:49 pm IST
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Have you ever come across people asking their friend or a family member suffering from cancer to reduce the intake of sugar? Or that microwaving food in plastic containers and aluminum foils releases harmful cancer-causing substances. Well, often such queries arising out of myths and misconceptions, end up causing more stress for patients than what they are already experiencing. Certain ideas about the causes of cancer or how cancer spreads can seem to make sense especially when those ideas are rooted in age-old theories. But wrong ideas about cancer can lead to needless worry and even hinder its prevention and treatment decisions.

Myths tend to develop around the prevalent conditions and hence it is no surprise that people often misunderstand cancer. One always needs to keep in mind that cancer is not a death sentence. Instead of wondering whether cancer is contagious and can spread from one person to another or whether one’s family members can get infected, people must focus on its treatment as any wrong information about cancer may hinder its treatment.

The objective is to speak about the myths around causes of cancer is to bring awareness regarding the disease. If figures are to be believed, every year nearly 15 lakh people are diagnosed with cancer to an extent that one in every nine people gets diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Even though the figures might sound glaring, what one needs to understand is that instead of fearing the disease one must learn to deal with it.

Being informed about the causes of cancer can help us stay protected against the disease. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Some of the myths and misconceptions around causes of cancer that doctors often have to clarify:

Myth: Eating sugar and sweets causes cancer.
Fact: No. There is no direct link between eating sugar and sweets and development of cancer. However, eating sugars, sweets, and fast foods put the people at risk of developing obesity which is a definite risk factor for cancer.

Myth: The cancer spreads from one person to another.
Fact: Absolutely not. This is a common myth that is prevalent even in educated people. Cancer is not a contagious disease and does not spread from one person to another. However, this myth usually leads to social and emotional discrimination against cancer patients.

Myth: Cancer rapidly spreads following biopsy.
Fact: This is again a commonly believed myth around causes of cancer. It can lead to treatment delays in the absence of confirmation of diagnosis through biopsy. A biopsy involves taking a minute piece of tissue to look at it under the microscope to be sure that the swelling is indeed a tumor and not any other disease.

Myth: Usage of cell phones can cause cancer.
Fact: No study has so far proved that using cellphones can cause cancer.

No! Your smartphone cannot cause cancer. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth: Living close to electric and mobile towers can cause cancer
Fact: No. We do not have any scientific evidence to suggest that living close to electric and mobile towers causes cancer.

Myth: All cancers are painful.
Fact: Many patients do not seek treatment when they have small painless lumps in their body thinking that they are harmless. However, to begin with, most of the early tumors are painless; they become painful when they are advanced.

Myth: All the breast lumps are cancers.
Fact: No. As a matter of fact, the majority of the breast lumps in the reproductive age group are not cancers; However, as the incidence of breast cancer is rising and one in 29 Indian women is likely to develop breast cancer in a lifetime, all breast lumps must be evaluated to rule out the malignancy.

Myth: Breast cancer is seen only in women and not in men.
Fact: No. Breast cancer can also be present in men, though it is rare and not as common as breast cancer in women.

Breast cancer, although rare, can happen to men. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Myth: Using deodorant/hair dye causes breast cancer.
Fact: No. Chemicals present in the deodorants/hair dyes have so far not been shown to cause cancer.

Myth: If one of my family member has a cancer, I am also bound to develop cancer
Fact: Not necessarily. Though cancer can be hereditary and can run in families, almost 90-95 percent of cancer cases are not hereditary and do not run in families.

Myth: Cancer chemotherapy always has bad side effects.
Fact: No. There has been significant progress in cancer chemotherapy drugs. Though the anticancer drugs do cause side effects, they are minimal with many newer drugs; and more importantly, they can be easily managed.

Myth: Cancer affects only elderly people, and children and young people cannot have cancer.
Fact: No age is immune and any person can develop cancer irrespective of age.

Myth: Cancer should not be treated as all patients will ultimately die due to this disease
Fact: Cancer survival has improved tremendously in the last few decades. Many patients can be completely cured of their cancer if detected in time and treated properly, and these patients can live their absolutely normally

Myth: Reheating and microwaving food can cause cancer
Fact: Microwave ovens are based on microwave radiation technology that is used to heat food. However, this does not mean that they have the ability to make food radioactive and cause cancer.

At times, the medical fraternity ignores the questions arising out of these myths and misconceptions. But queries unanswered are more dangerous than the disease. These myths not only derail the treatment plans but also places a huge psychological and emotional stress on cancer patients.

Here are some main causes of cancer:

  1. As we all are aware that the main causes of cancer are consumption of tobacco in any form – cigarette or gutka and consumption of alcohol.
  2. Regular and healthy eating habits and maintaining a healthy weight are crucial to avoiding cancer to a large extent. Hence high-calorie food and intake of fats must be reduced.
  3. Exercising and being physically active can reduce the risk of various types of cancer like cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, colon, uterus, and kidney.
  4. Practicing safe sex can help reduce the chances of sexually transmitted infections like HIV or HPV. Getting vaccine shots against hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent several cancers including liver, cervical, anal, oral, and oropharyngeal cancers.

About the Author
Dr Pankaj Kumar Garg

Professor and Head of Department at Shri Guru Ram Rai Institute of Medical and Health Sciences. Senior Surgical Oncologist at Shri Mahant Indiresh Hospital, Dehradun (Uttarakhand)

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