5 Myths About Lowering Cancer Risk

You may have solid reasons (environmental, ethical, or otherwise) to take these steps. But they don’t do much to lower cancer risk.


Abandoning Bras and Antiperspirants

Photo by Amy van Lujik

Concerns that bras raise breast cancer risk by preventing lymph fluid from circulating are not backed up by any solid evidence, says Marisa Weiss, MD, founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org. There’s also little proof that antiperspirants leach harmful aluminum particles into the body or block sweat from carrying cancer-causing toxins out.


Avoiding GMOs

Critics worry that crops grown from seeds that were genetically modified to increase yields and resist pests could be fueling a rise in cancer. But a 2016 report from the National Academy of Sciences found there is no evidence that GMO foods on the market affect cancer risk.


Pitching Nonstick Pans

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical once used in the making of Teflon, raised the risk of tumors in animals exposed to high levels. But it was phased out in 2015, and there are no known cancer risks to humans from using nonstick cookware, according to the ACS.


Skipping Artificial Sweeteners

Critics remain wary of them, but the NCI and other health agencies say there is no clear evidence that sugar substitutes cause cancer in humans. “Experts have looked at this over and over again,” says Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS). “The only artificial sweetener that has been linked to cancer in mice is saccharin, but that was later disproven.”


Shopping Organic Only

Foods grown without artificial pesticides or fertilizers may seem healthier, but the ACS reports that at this time there is no evidence that subsisting only on organic foods will pose fewer cancer risks than eating conventionally farmed foods. Some experts worry that the higher costs of organic foods may discourage people from eating more fruits and vegetables.