From Bras to Cell Phones: Busting the Top 8 Cancer Myths


According to various internet resources, almost anything can cause cancer. Don’t be fooled by the hype and clutter that can camouflage the truth. John Stoddard Cancer Center is here to set the record straight about eight of the most common cancer related myths!

Myth 1: Cell Phones and Power Lines Cause Cancer

NO! Cancer is caused by a genetic mutation or abnormality. Cell phones expend a form of radiofrequency energy known as radio waves. These waves are non-ionizing radiation and can be absorbed by the skin that comes in direct contact with the phone, but it is at such a low-frequency and low-dose that it is not linked to causing cancer.

Power lines, similarly to cell phones, give off low-frequency electric and magnetic energy. This energy is weakened by walls of homes, cars and everything that stands between you and the outdoors. Like cell phones, this energy is very low-dose, and it does NOT cause genes to mutate. Therefore, it does not cause cancer.

Myth 2: Wearing Bras Can Cause Cancer

There are claims circulating that wearing underwire bras or tight underwear that puts pressure on the lymphatic system (glands in the breasts) can cause cancer. This is NOT true! Neither the style of bra nor tightness of underwear is correlated with causing cancer in any scientific way.

Myth 3: Microwaving Food in Plastic or Styrofoam Containers Causes Cancer

Sources on the internet frequently discuss how microwaving food in plastic containers, wraps or styrofoam containers causes a chemical, known as diethylhexyl, to leach into the food. While this is true, what the stories do not tell you is the FDA and the makers of these containers take this into account when approving products for food storage and microwave safety. Also, the rate at which these chemicals are absorbed into the food is VERY minimal. So the FDA carefully monitors the materials used for containers and wrappings that will come in contact with food and measures the migration rates before approving a material to be used in microwave safe containers.

While we have debunked this myth, please remember that not all containers are safe to put in the microwave because they can melt, overheat and are not made to stand up in the microwave!

Myth 4: Antiperspirants and Deodorants Cause Cancer

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has not found any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm deodorant or antiperspirant to cancer, or more specifically, breast cancer. The claims are usually based on the fact that these products incorporate chemicals such as aluminum or paraben which can absorb into the skin through small cuts or enlarged pores. While this is true, there is no conclusive evidence backed by sound research that tie these components to genetic mutations.

Myth 5: Reusing Plastic Water Bottles Causes Cancer

Chain emails have circulated for years claiming that reusing one-time-use plastic water bottles causes them to break down and allows a chemical known as dioxin or DEHA to enter the water within the bottle. Many of these claims are even credited to Johns Hopkins University. The University has denied these claims for a long time and stands by the fact that they were falsely linked to the claims.

Like the rest of the myths we are busting, there is no scientific evidence to back these warnings against plastic water bottles causing cancer. We do recommend that people use the products as directed.

Myth 6: There are No Warning Signs or Symptoms for Cancer

The warning signs are different for each type of cancer, but almost all cancers present warnings of some kind. This can include anything from an unexpected lump to increased hormone levels that are only found through blood work. This is a good example of why it is important to continue having regular check-ups with your primary care or family medicine doctor.

Myth 7: Cancer is a Death Sentence

In the United States, we are constantly researching the latest and greatest cancer treatment options, allowing us to dramatically increase the survival rate for many cancers. It is true that some cancers are harder to cure than others, and the further the cancer has progressed before it is diagnosed the more challenging the treatment path will be.

Myth 8: Tumors Exposed to Air During Surgery Will Spread Further and Faster

This is not true! There are instances where during surgery the doctors discover that the cancer has spread farther than they originally thought, but the surgery is not what causes the cancer to spread. There are specific medical procedures in place during biopsies and tumor removal surgeries to prevent the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. For example, a separate set of surgical tools is used when dealing with healthy tissue in the body versus infected tissue.

John Stoddard Cancer Center

With so much information about what causes cancer available on the internet, we understand that it can be challenging to sort through what is true and what is a myth. You are not alone in this; our team of experts takes patient education very seriously. Learn more about John Stoddard Cancer Center and the importance of early detection today.

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