Myths About Cancer

 Below is a brief interview between and Dr. Michael Wald, The Blood Detective. Dr. Wald can be reached by calling: 914-242-8844 Ext. 1 or via email at: Website: / /

Although cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S., the public's perception of the disease is still highly influenced by confusion, fear, and false information. These falsities include that cancer is a contagious disease, wearing a bra can cause breast cancer, and that the government is hiding a cure.

Myth #1

State a myth: Nutrition cannot help with cancer

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be: Traditionally, nutrition was grouped together with “home economics” in state universities. This type of higher education, and home economics specifically, was a focus of predominantly women. Because nutrition was historically grouped together with home economics, “serious” universities and academic institutions did not take nutrition seriously as a science. The myth persisted in learning institutions and still has a strong hold in the minds of those with higher levels of education including medical schools. Medical students are strongly influenced by a lengthy education and predominantly believe that, “If I did not learn it in medical school it can’t be right”. Research support can be found at the National Library of Medicine ( and demonstrates via tens of thousands of studies that nutrition has a role in both the prevention and treatment of virtually all variety of cancers. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60% of women’s cancer and 40% of men’s cancer are caused by dietary factors.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society?  Culturally this trend lends itself to perpetuation of lack of critical thinking even among those who are trained to be critical thinkers; namely, medical physicians. They are critical thinkers, but within a context of incomplete information (that not presented to them).

Myth #2

State a myth: Physicians are the best practitioners to discuss nutritional options regarding their cancer

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be: Societally, most people inherently trust their medical physicians. Not only in the area of medicine, but often in areas outside the scope of practice of certain medical specialties.  The average medical school provides less than 36 hours of nutrition training. According to the National Academy of Sciences, these educational hours are inadequate. Therefore, medical physicians are not qualified to provide reliable and accurate opinions regarding the Evidence Base of diet and/or nutritional supplements. Unless the doctor has received lengthy and complete training in nutrition and cancer treatment and prevention, their advice is unreliable.  Certifications and board certifications are adequate education. Weekend courses at universities are not adequate, but very popular among physicians trying to “capture part of the nutrition-cancer market”.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society? People tend to assign unconditional respect and certain assumptions regarding their doctor’s knowledge in this area. Physicians are people too, complete with prejudices, bias and ignorance.  A true medical professional, unless he or she has the appropriate training, will yield to health care providers in the area of nutrition and cancer when appropriate.  Also, doctors should fully admit to their patients that they do not have specific training in nutrition rather than “making their patients wrong” for asking nutrition questions or questioning their doctors opinions in this area.

Myth #3

State a myth: Probiotics will increase the risk of infection in those with cancer and a compromised immune system.

The majority of scientific evidence clearly supports the role of supplements of healthy bacteria, probiotics, for reducing risk of infection in those with cancer and positively benefiting ones immunity.

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be:  It seems that some hematologists/oncologist, without conducting special research and education in this area, seem to believe that providing bacteria to an individual with a compromised immune system will give them a bacterial infection. This conclusion has been largely disproven. The predominance of medical evidence clearly supports an overall benefit for cancer patients to supplement with medical grade probiotics.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society?  Faulty conclusions tend to lend themselves to further inaccuracies in thinking in terms of clinical decision making among physicians.  In this specific area, it is clear that some physicians are not doing their due diligence conducting research into areas involving nutrition.

Myth #4

State a myth: Tight bra

Although it is an interesting premise that a tight bra may cause breast cancer, there is simply no proof of this. It is thought that a tight bra can choke off lymphatic drainage from the breasts. It is further assumed by those who support this premise, that reduced lymphatic drainage from the beasts perpetuates breast cancer.

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be:  It was based on the concept of sluggish lymphatic drainage increases the bodies burden of toxins that can be stored in fatty breast tissue, in turn causing cancer.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society? No comment

Myth #5

State a myth:  Cancer always involves a weak immune system.

We actually have several interrelated immune systems that we collectively call “the immune system”. They include the cell-mediated immune system and the humoral immune system that is composed of the immunoglobulins (i.e., IgM, IgG and IgA). Many cancers involve abnormalities in one or more areas of the immune system. Most often, cancer treatments lead to compromised immune function, even when the cancer treatment (i.e., chemotherapy, radiation) is successful for eradicating the cancerous process.  There is no scientific evidence that most cancer, certainly not all, is caused by a weak immune system. If a weak immune system is present in an individual, then an increased risk is certainly accepted.

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be:

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society?

Additional comments:

Myth #6

State a myth:  Cancer is contagious

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be:  No form of cancer is contagious. However, certain infections highly predispose one to cancer and they are contagious. Three examples include hepatitis C virus, HPV (human papilloma virus) and Epstein - Barr virus.  Liver cancer (hepatoma) and cervical cancer respectively, can be caused by these infections. A certain form of lymphoma is known to be caused or predisposed by Epstein - Barr virus.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society?  Inadequate understanding of the nature of certain diseases is insufficient among the public. On the other hand, many physicians have misconceptions themselves. Such misunderstandings can only lead to further confusion and improper thinking on this and other topics.

Additional comments:

Myth #7

State a myth:  Thinking positively will cure cancer and negative thinking is the cause of cancer.

The power of the mind in directing one’s life and causing or predisposing one to several health conditions is accepted. For example, a high stress lifestyle or stressed individual manifesting as what is known as a “type A” personality can cause very real lesions in the stomach and small intestine known as ulcers. An individual who is consistently stressed or uptight is more predisposed to insomnia, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Adjustments in one’s mental attitude, and internalization of external events, will in turn positively affect one’s biochemistry. Stressful thoughts create stressed chemistry by increasing blood levels of adrenaline, cortisol and various inflammatory markers that can perpetuate disease.  Some studies have shown an association with stress and certain cancers, but this association is far from universal.  Thinking positively will create a biochemistry that is different than stressful or negative thinking. Cancer specifically, has never been proven to be associated with one or another personality types. Faith healers have claimed to cure many conditions, and various individuals have a strong belief that changing their thinking (more positively) was the cause of their resolution of health problems, including cancer, but this is entirely unproven. In fact, it is unlikely that this premise could be proven either false or true.  From a scientific perspective healing or causing cancer by changing one’s mental state is un-scientific.

Thoughts on how and why the myth came to be: Throughout history, people have made observations and connections in terms of cause and effect. I believe that inadequate perceptions and internalizations of the meaning of external events, and cause and effect, have resulted in such misevaluations.

What does this myth say about the United States culturally as a society? A strong, unscientific belief by an individual will often negate scientific conclusions.





Posted on May 26, 2013 and filed under General Health.