Thursday, December 29, 2016

Top 5 Age-Old Cancer Myths Debunked

Top 5 Age-Old Cancer Myths Debunked

Working in the field of cancer research have attracted many people coming up to me and ask: “Is there a cure for cancer yet”, “I heard meditation would help heal the body from this disease” or “Have you read this article about this therapy that would put drug companies out of business”. The last one I’ve seen a lot in particular, and it sounds like a click-bait link that wants to make you to believe treating cancer is that simple. To help better understand where we are at scientifically, and current knowledge and treatment for this disease, I thought I repost this “Top 5 age-old cancer myths debunked” article from Leap Magazine last winter. As a scientist, we are doing our best to uncover some of the unanswered questions about cancer, in hopes that our discovery can one day be translated for clinical use, and innovate better treatment to fight this disease. Here are the top 5 most common myths about cancer and the actual facts behind them.

1.     Cancer is a modern and man-made disease.
In reality, cancer has existed as long as humans have. Egyptian and Greek researchers wrote about it thousands of years ago, and researchers have since found signs of cancer in a 3,000-year-old skeleton. Michaela Binder, a PhD student at Durham University, found the hole-riddled skeleton, which dates back o around 1,200 BC, at the Amara West site in northern Sudan. Binder’s finding is of particular interest as it is 2,000 years older than the previously confirmed instance of the disease. The fact is, the biggest factor for contracting cancer is age – because more people are living longer, and we have eradicated many infectious diseases, the DNA in people’s cells gets damaged over time, leaving them more susceptible to getting cancer.

2.     Cancer cells like sugar.
Some people believe that cancer feeds on sugar, and therefore it should be removed from all patients’ diets. In actuality, all cells, whether cancerous or not, use glucose for energy. The body does not choose which cells get fuel, but instead converts all the carbohydrates we eat to glucose, fructose and simple sugars. Tissues then use them for energy as needed. Researchers are currently working to discover the difference in energy use of cancerous versus healthy cells, and are trying to use the data to develop better cancer treatments. Experts say that while limiting sugar is part of a healthy diet. It’s not accurate to say sugar in our food specifically feeds cancer cells.

3.     They have found a cancer cure.
While everything from coffee enemas to cannabis has been touted as a miracle cure, no such salve has been proven to eradicate cancer. Often, success are difficult to discern – not knowing the “patient’s” medical diagnosis, stage of disease or even outlook, if they have actually been cured or even had cancer to begin with. There is also no mention of the people who may have tried the “cures” and died. Researchers say thi sis the reason why peer-reviewed, rigorous lab research and clinical trials are necessary – to determine whether a prospective treatments is safe and effective, and that this is the standard to which all cancer treatments should be held.

4.     Drug companies are keeping the cure a secret.
Almost everyone has heard the claim hat a cure for cancer has actually been found, but pharmaceutical companies are making so much money off the disease, they are suppressing it. But logic would say that it would be in pharmaceutical companies’ best interest to reveal the cure or drug, with huge sales of the antidote sure to follow. And one can’t discount the fact that people who work for pharmaceutical companies and doctors are just that: people. They can and do get cancer, and some have even die from it. To say that they are the ones behind a cure being revealed is a bit difficult to believe when viewed in this light.

5.     Cancer treatment kills rather than cure.
It’s true that the side-effects of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery are real and unpleasant, but it’s important to remember that they are designed to kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, that sometimes means affecting healthy cells too. The later the stage a cancer has reached before attempting treatment, the less a chance that it will work. Surgery is still considered the best treatment for cancer, but it needs to be diagnosed early enough to be effective. Radiotherapy is known to cure more people than cancer drugs, but drugs and chemo do play an important part in cancer treatment, whether it’s to prolong a life or, in some cases, cure the disease.


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