Common Cancer Myths Busted: Separating Fact from Fiction

Misconceptions about cancer are often rooted in outdated theories and can seem plausible, but they can cause undue stress and interfere with effective prevention and treatment. Here, we clarify common cancer myths with evidence-based information.

Common Cancer Myths #1: Does a cancer diagnosis mean a certain death?

No, a cancer diagnosis does not necessarily mean certain death. With early detection and advancements in treatment, many people with cancer are able to successfully manage the disease and live entire lives. The outcome of a cancer diagnosis varies depending on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, the individual’s overall health, and the effectiveness of their treatment plan.

Common Cancer Myths #2: Does consuming sugar worsen cancer?

Eating sugar does not worsen cancer. Studies have not shown that cutting sugar can shrink or cure cancer. However, high sugar intake can lead to weight gain, which raises the risk of some cancers.

Common Cancer Myths #3: Is cancer contagious?

Cancer is not contagious. It can only spread from one person to another through organ or tissue transplantation, but this is rare, and the risks are low. Doctors avoid using cancer-affected organs or tissues. Viruses or bacteria can cause some cancers, but even then, the cancers themselves cannot be spread.

Common Cancer Myths #4: Does a positive or negative attitude affect cancer risk or survival?

No scientific evidence currently links a person’s attitude to their cancer risk or death. It’s common for those with cancer to experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, discouragement, and positivity. Having a positive outlook may help maintain social connections and keep them active, as physical activity and emotional support can aid in coping with cancer.

Common Cancer Myths #5: Cancer surgery or a tumor biopsy causes cancer to spread

The likelihood of surgery spreading cancer to other parts of the body is rare. Standard surgical procedures include special techniques and precautions to prevent the spread of cancer cells during biopsies or tumor removal. For instance, separate surgical tools are used for each tissue area if multiple areas need to be removed.

Common Cancer Myths #6: Do cell phones cause cancer?

As of now, no proof exists that cell phones cause cancer. The notion arose due to the emission of radiofrequency radiation (radio waves) by these devices, which is a type of non-ionizing radiation that the body absorbs. Although exposure to ionizing radiation (such as X-rays) increases cancer risk, non-ionizing radiation from radiofrequency does not pose a cancer threat.

Common Cancer Myths #7: Can herbal products cure cancer?

No, there is no scientific evidence that herbal products can cure cancer. While some people with cancer use herbal products in addition to conventional cancer treatments, it is important to talk to a doctor before taking any herbs, as they can interact with other treatments and cause side effects.

Common Cancer Myths #8: Is it likely that I’ll get cancer if someone in my family has it?

Not necessarily. Cancer is caused by gene mutations, but only 5-10% of cancers are from inherited mutations. These are called “familial” or “hereditary” cancers and often multiple family members have it. The rest are from mutations that occur during a person’s lifetime from aging and environmental factors like tobacco smoke and radiation, called “non-hereditary” or “spontaneous” cancers.


  1. National Cancer Institution. Common cancer myths and misconceptions. [Cited: 31 January 2023]. Available at:
  2. 11 myths about cancer, debunked. [Cited: 31 January 2023]. Available at:

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