Try Googling ‘cancer’ and you’ll quickly find millions of web pages and YouTube videos. Yet some common beliefs about cancer are proving to be stubbornly popular even though they have been long discredited scientifically.

Meanwhile, five million Australians are increasing their cancer risk by failing to control their weight, drinking excessively, smoking or exposing themselves to UV radiation thanks to the spread of internet-based misinformation about the disease.

Myth Versus Scientific Fact


The problem is much of the information readily available on the Internet is at best out of date or at worst dangerously misleading. Here are five common cancer myths:

  1. Cancer Is Man-Made

We are far more conscious of cancer these days but cancer but that doesn’t mean “Western” lifestyles cause cancer. Cancer has existed as long as humans have been around. Physicians amongst the ancient Egyptians and Greeks described it and researchers have found signs of cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton.

While it’s true cancer rates are increasing, the biggest risk factor for cancer remains age as more people are living longer.

  1. Apricot Kernels Can Cure Cancer

Some claim amygdalin or Laetrile a chemical present in apricot kernels is a cure for cancer. Laetrile is a common alternative cancer treatment, however, there is zero evidence it actually works. 

Decades of scientific studies, dating back to the 1950s, there is no evidence that Laetrile can treat tumours. Clinical trials in animals and humans failed to identify any benefits. 

Laetrile proponents claim it releases cyanide in the body, killing cancer cells and leaving normal ones unharmed. Unfortunately, it is not true that normal cells remain unharmed. Several cases of cyanide poisoning and death have been linked to Laetrile treatment. 

  1. Artificial Sweeteners May Cause Cancer

This is not true. Extensive studies have been conducted on the safety of artificial sweeteners such as saccharin, sucralose, cyclamate, aspartame, neotame and acesulfame potassium as sugar substitutes and discovered no scientific indicators they contribute to people contracting cancer.

  1. Does My Attitude Influence My Risk Of Contracting Or Recovering From Cancer?

Currently, there is no definitive scientific evidence linking a person’s “attitude” to their risk of developing or recovering from cancer. People with a positive attitude may be more likely to stay physically active, stick to their treatment plan and maintain their social connections all of which assist with remission.

  1. If I Have No Family History Of Cancer Am I Risk-Free?

No. According to the most recent data, around 38 per cent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some stage in their lives. Most cancers are triggered by genetic anomalies that occur as a natural result of the ageing process and exposure to environmental factors including UV radiation and tobacco smoke. 

Other factors, including whether you exercise, your diet and how much you eat may also affect your risk of developing cancer at some stage in your life.

Final Observation

What the causes of many forms of cancer and their related deaths is not fully understood. Myths and rumours fill the void including unfounded concerns about artificial sweeteners, plastic bottles and deodorants fill the gap. There are also numerous folk tales about so-called cancer treatments, which either don’t work are harmful or often both.

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