Cancer Myths and Truths

Nearly every family will be affected by cancer at some point and according to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 38.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes.  Cancer is also one of the leading causes of death worldwide and although the overall survival rate has increased, with a rapidly aging population the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030, up from 14.1 million in 2012. 

We know that smoking, obesity, heredity, age, diet, and radiation are risk factors for cancer but there are many myths about the causes of cancer and it’s growth rate.  One of the myths is that sugar will make cancer worse or stopping eating sugar with cause cancer to shrink or vanish.  All cells require glucose for energy; eating sugar does not make cancer cells grow faster.  However, according to the Mayo Clinic, consuming large amounts of sugar is associated with an increased risk for certain cancers including esophageal cancer.  Too much sugar can also lead to obesity and diabetes which may lead to a greater risk of cancer.  

What about red meat?  The World Health Organization states that there is strong, but limited, evidence that eating red meat is associated with colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.  Eating red meat has not been established as a cause of cancer, but several studies have found that eating processed meat can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.  Cooking meat at high temperatures on the barbecue or pan-frying produces more carcinogenic chemicals; studies are not yet conclusive about how cooking methods affect the risk for cancer.

Although eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and lean proteins is associated with greater health and longevity, there is no one superfood that will prevent cancer.   Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol, living smoke-free and eating a diet that focuses on fresh, unprocessed foods is an important component of reducing your cancer risk. 

Learn the latest information about myths and controversies surrounding cancer and our health by following this link to the Canadian Cancer Society.