Cancer causes: Popular myths about the causes of cancer
Misconceptions about cancer causes can lead to unnecessary worry about your health. Find out whether there's any truth to these common myths about the causes of cancer.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Timothy Moynihan, M.D.
Scary claims circulate on the internet that everyday objects and products, such as plastic and deodorant, are secret cancer causes. Beyond being wrong, many of these myths may cause you to worry unnecessarily about your own health and the health of your family.
Before you panic, take a look at the facts.
Here, Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D., a cancer specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, takes a closer look at some popular myths about cancer causes and explains why they just aren't true.
Myth: Antiperspirants or deodorants can cause breast cancer.
Fact: There's no conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants with breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute and other research.
Some reports have suggested that these products contain harmful substances such as aluminum compounds and parabens that can be absorbed through the skin or enter the body through nicks caused by shaving. No clinical studies have yet given a definitive answer to the question of whether these products cause breast cancer. But the evidence to date suggests these products don't cause cancer.
If you're still concerned that your underarm antiperspirant or deodorant could increase your risk of cancer, choose products that don't contain chemicals that worry you.
Myth: Microwaving plastic containers and wraps releases harmful, cancer-causing substances into food.
Fact: Microwave-safe plastic containers and wraps are safe to use in the microwave.
But plastic containers not intended for use in the microwave could melt and potentially leak chemicals into your food. So avoid microwaving containers that were never intended for the microwave, such as margarine tubs, takeout containers or whipped topping bowls.
Check to see that any container you use in the microwave is labeled as microwave-safe.
March 31, 2017
See more In-depth
- Common cancer myths and misconceptions. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths. Accessed Nov. 11, 2016.
- Antiperspirants/deodorants and breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet. Accessed Nov. 1, 2016.
- Science fact or science fiction? – 9 common cancer myths. Cancer.Net. http://www.cancer.net/blog/2015-03/science-fact-or-science-fiction-%E2%80%93-9-common-cancer-myths. Accessed Nov. 1, 2016.
- Cooking safely in the microwave oven. U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/appliances-and-thermometers/cooking-safely-in-the-microwave/cooking-safely-in-the-microwave-oven. Accessed Nov. 1, 2016.
- Willhite CC, et al. Systematic review of potential health risks posed by pharmaceutical, occupational and consumer exposures to metallic and nanoscale aluminum, aluminum oxides, aluminum hydroxide and its soluble salts. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 2014;44 (suppl):S1.
- Rock CL, et al. Nutrition and physical activity guidelines for cancer survivors. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:243.
- Bail J, et al. Nutritional status and diet in cancer prevention. Seminars in Oncology Nursing. 2016;32:206.
- Kushi LH, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2012;62:30.