Cancer myths: the most virulent forms of misinformation

Cancer myths are one of the most virulent forms of misinformation; the consequence of which can end in tragedy. 

Food Babe, Dr. Oz, Mike Adams (runs Naturalnews.com), Dr. Joseph Mercola, Vandana Shiva, and others who sell unscientific fear mongering are some of the most noxious thought viruses plaguing our current pseudoscience epidemic. Cancer myths peddled by these quacks, by design, blame the cancer patient for “giving themselves” cancer. Decades of research and tragic deaths have shown that, in fact, many cases of cancer are not preventable. Furthermore, if a patient, with a treatable cancer, is allured into buying a cancer myth and declines evidence-based medical treatment the result is often death. Tragically, a preventable death.

Food Babe, one of the repeated cancer myth offenders, blames cancer patients for giving themselves cancer. Having personally lost friends to breast cancer [caused by a BRCA (BReast CAncer susceptibility gene) and HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) mutations], I am especially infuriated and appalled by Food Babe’s cruel suggestion that cancer patients are to blame for their own cancer.  See Food Babe’s post below:

BRCAFB

First of all, I would like to inform Food Babe, that one does not “test positive for the BRCA gene.” Humans (homo sapiens) have both a BRCA1 and a BRCA2 gene (BReast CAncer genes 1 and 2). These BRCA genes encode for tumor suppressor proteins, which repair double-stranded breaks in DNA. Therefore, the BRCA genes play a crucial role in ensuring genomic stability.

Two-Hit Hypothesis
Two_Hit
 (Figure from Gutmann DH. Hum Mol Genet. 2001 Apr;10(7):747-55. Review)
Tumor suppressor genes often function to prevent abnormal cell growth and division. In addition, tumor suppressor genes can stimulate cell death as a mean of keeping our cells in a proper balance; stopping abnormal cells from going out of control. As with BRCA, some of these genes play critical roles in DNA repair processes; preventing accumulation of mutations in cancer-related genes. Tumor suppressor genes are like the brakes in your car; they stop abnormal cells from speeding up to take the cancer exit. Given their importance in maintaining genomic stability, loss of a tumor suppressor gene function can be disastrous.
Like all genes, tumor suppressor genes may can develop a variety of mutations in their DNA. In general, the majority of loss-of-function mutations that occur in tumor suppressor genes are recessive. Meaning both of the cell’s tumor suppressor genes must be mutated in order to lead to cancer. This idea is known as the “two-hit” hypothesis. The “two-hit” hypothesis was first proposed by geneticist Alfred Knudson in 1971. Today, this hypothesis serves as the basis for researchers’ understanding of how mutations in tumor suppressor genes drive cancer.
Though there are many remaining questions about a multitude of different cancers, thanks to decades of incredible research scientists have accrued an abundance of useful knowledge about cancer and how to treat various types. Given the complexity and diversity of cancers, I don’t have time to discuss them all in one post.
Overall, we have learned from biomedical research that a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce your risk for certain types of cancers. The critical word I would like to highlight here is “healthy”. What is considered “healthy” by astoundingly scientifically illiterate self-proclaimed “health experts” like Food Babe (Vani Hari) and others in her quack family compared to what legitimate experts deem healthy is vastly different.
Environmental factors that contribute to cancer disposition include air pollution, carcinogens, asbestos exposure, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, certain viral infections, radon gas and certain pesticides.
Viruses that can cause cancer:
Human Papilloma Virus (Cervial Cancer)
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C (liver cancer)
Kaposi sarcoma–associated herpes virus (KSHV) linked with Kaposi sarcoma tumors, lymphocytic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma called adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma
Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV) discovered in 2008 from a rare and aggressive type of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma
Factors which have NOT been shown to increase your risk for cancer include: GMO-containing foods, vaccines and sugar. Organic food, herbal tinctures, juices, raw foods diets, eating wild raw meat, and homeopathy do NOT cure or prevent cancer.
Learn more about cancer risk factors: http://www.cancer.gov
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