Truth: Despite the chain e-mail your great-aunt forwarded you, “there is absolutely no evidence at this time that any of these things are associated with human cancers,” says Jack Jacoub, M.D., medical oncologist at Memorial Care Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
So where’d the info even come from? Animal studies back in the 1970s linked artificial sweeteners to cancer, but the same findings didn’t pan out in humans, according to the National Cancer Institute.
And though some studies have shown an association between cell phones and brain cancer, others have demonstrated none—and groups such as the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization say there’s insufficient evidence to support any health harms.
Bottom line: To get the biggest bang for your cancer-prevention buck, try to focus on things that have been scientifically proven to reduce cancer risk, says Jacoub. Cut back on booze, quit smoking, eat more vegetables, and keep your weight in check with plenty of exercise.
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Truth: Fair skin does boost your odds of developing both deadly melanoma and other types of skin cancer. But no hue grants you immunity from the disease, says Joshua Fox, M.D., medical director of Advanced Dermatology, P.C., in New York—especially if you fail to take preventive measures.
Dark-skinned patients and even their doctors can miss the warning signs of skin cancer, which frequently appear in often-overlooked places, such as under their nails or on the palms, soles of the feet, and mucus membranes around the mouth, eyelid, and genitals.
As a result, they’re often diagnosed at later stages, when cancers have become more difficult to treat.
Truth: According to the American Cancer Society, extra pounds weigh into as many as one in five cancer deaths.
Being too heavy increases your risk of colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, gallbladder, thyroid, and prostate cancers, among others. And it may also worsen your prognosis if you do get sick.
Inflammation caused by having excess fat may turn normal cells cancerous by altering their DNA or flipping the balance between the rate new cells form and old ones die off. Compounds released by fat cells, including estrogen, adipokines, and insulin-like growth factor can do the same thing, says Jacoub.
What’s more, obesity often goes hand-in-hand with a diet high in harmful fats and low in cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables—a carcinogenic double-whammy, says Scott Shelfo, M.D., medical director of urology at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern in Atlanta.
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Truth: True, you can’t catch cancer from someone else who has it. But some cancer-causing viruses most definitely qualify as contagious.
In fact, over the last decade or so, human papillomavirus (HPV) has dramatically changed the demographic of people coming down with mouth and throat cancers, says Robert Haddad, M.D., disease center leader, head and neck oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
These cancers were once reserved for older smokers and heavy drinkers, but as many as 70 percent of them can now be attributed to HPV infection.
The virus spreads during oral sex and can cause cancer years later.
Most people who have had sex eventually contract at least one strain of HPV, but the majority won’t turn into cancer, says Haddad.
Truth: It’s time to banish the phrase “healthy glow,” says Fox.
Skin darkened by UV rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, has already sustained damage that contributes to cancer risk. That’s not to mention wrinkles, dull skin, sagging, brown spots, and other signs of aging.
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Plus, that baseline bronzing provides you with only minimal sun protection—equivalent to an SPF of 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And even a single sunburn boosts your odds of deadly melanoma, says Fox.
Sunscreen is a vital step but should serve as a secondary strategy. Start by minimizing your time under the sun between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., when UV rays beam strongest.
Written by Cindy Kuzma from Men’s Health.
Photo By Shutterstock