Dissecting the Cancer Myths in Africa

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When it comes to cancer there are many misconceptions that come with understanding the disease. The many forms of cancer have been known to be linked with various causes that are not necessarily true. Here are ten of some of the myths that associated with cancer

Skin Cancer only affects white people
The truth is everyone is at risk of getting skin cancer even though it is most prevalent in light skins. Darker skins have a higher concentration of melanin which protects the skin from the damages of the UVA radiation from the sun. Skin cancer deaths are lower compared to other forms of cancer but thousands of people lose their lives annually.

Sunscreen should be used by all skin types. Apply the lotion 20 minutes before stepping into the sun and every two hours if at the beach, also reapply after swimming, dry towelling or after an activity that induces a lot of sweating.
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Grilled and well cooked meat does not cause cancer
Grilled or well done meat has been linked to increased chances of getting cancer. During grilling, some harmful chemicals in the meat form. The chemical, heterocyclic amines are found in high qualities when meat is well done or burnt. Experts recommend marinating and pre-cooking meat before grilling.

Eating red meat and processed meat especially with preservatives like nitrites and nitrates which increase shelf life found in processed meat such as ham, bacon and sausages

Men don’t get breast cancer
Although breast cancer mainly affects women, med do get breast cancer as well. According to research a man’s chance of getting breast cancer is 1 in 788. Research also points to men who drink alcohol more have a higher chance of getting infected with cancer. Most cases of men cancer are discovered at an advanced stage leading to the higher chances of men dying from breast cancer.
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There is a diet to prevent cancer
There is no evidence to support the claim that diets that consist of fresh fruit, vegetable, roots and tubers, nuts and legumes and only small portions of meats and dairy products helps reduce risks of cancer.

The body is complicated, the blood is slightly alkaline, when it becomes too acidic or too alkaline it automatically corrects this on its own without a special diet.

Using roll-on perfumes or antiperspirants causes breast cancer
People have often said the major cause of breast cancer is use of antiperspirants because it stops the body from seating therefore keeping toxins in. However a study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute found that deodorant or antiperspirants do not increase chances of getting cancer.

However there has been a call for more research on this, to give more valid information.

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Cancer is contagious or inherited
Cancer cells can’t be transferred from the host’s body to another body because the new body will destroy the foreign cancer cells. Being in close contact or having sex, kissing, touching or sharing meals or breathing the same air as an infected person will not pass the cancer.

There are rare cases where people have been infected with cancer after receiving organ transplants from a cancer patient. There are also very rare cases of a pregnant mother passing cancer to the baby.

There are some families that have many members getting cancer but is does not mean they are spreading the disease to each other. It is mainly due shared genes that increase the risk of getting cancer or have similar factors that expose them to high risk of getting cancer.

Although cancer is not contagious there are bacteria and virus that increase risks of getting cancer. That can be transferred through kissing, touching and sex. Bacteria such as Helicobacter pylori that causes stomach cancer, Hepatitis B virus(HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) linked to liver cancer among others.

Using plastic to warm food in Microwave causes cancer
Plastics are manufactured with many chemicals that may cause cancer and it is possible for the chemicals to get into the food. Use microwave safe containers, never store hot food in plastic containers that were not intended for storage such as margarine containers etc. Let the food cool down before storing it in the jar, then refrigerate.

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Sugar increases cancer risk
There is no evidence to support the belief that sugar will make cancer grow or spread quickly. The body depends on glucose to function and the body breaks down food eaten into glucose molecules.

However too much sugar has been linked to weight gain, obesity , diabetes and other health problems that increase the risk of getting cancer.

Cancer causes hair loss
Hair loss only occurs during cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy but the cancer itself does not cause hair loss. The hair grows back six months after treatment.

Cancer kills
Cancer is a serious disease that may cause death. However, ongoing new breakthroughs in prevention, early detection and more specific treatment regimens are promoting more effective control measures and help to make cancer a more manageable disease. It is estimated that more than 40% of adult cancer patients and 60% of childhood cancer patients are successfully treated for cancer in South Africa.
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