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Powerful Choices Podcast: Dispelling Cancer Myths

October 2010

Colleen: Hello and welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Powerful Choices Podcast series, where you'll get the information you need to make everyday choices that can help you be healthy and stay well. I’m Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society’s director of nutrition and physical activity. Thanks so much for joining us.

You know, the American Cancer Society prides itself on providing the most up-to-date, accurate information about cancer-related issues, research, and news. There are a lot of other reliable resources out there as well, but not everything you hear or read about cancer is accurate. That’s why we’re also committed to dispelling the cancer-related rumors and myths that are often spread through the Internet, email, and everyday conversation.

For a while now, an Internet email rumor has suggested that underarm antiperspirants cause breast cancer. It also claims that underarm shaving allows cancer-causing substances in antiperspirants to be absorbed into the body, where they prevent the lymph nodes from removing cancer-causing toxins before they reach the breast.

There is no scientific evidence to support this. In fact, in a 2002 study comparing women with breast cancer and women without the disease, researchers found no link between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant use, deodorant use, or underarm shaving.

Another question we at the American Cancer Society get a lot is about plastic water bottles. People ask if there’s any truth to the rumor that reusing plastic water bottles can cause cancer. There are email chains that claim these bottles contain a substance called D-E-H-A, and that this substance can leak out of the plastic and into the water after repeated use.

This rumor is based on a college student’s thesis, not any published, peer-reviewed studies. D-E-H-A is not actually used in the plastic to make water bottles. But, even if it was, the Environmental Protection Agency has not found any evidence that the substance could cause cancer.

We also often get asked whether chemicals in shampoos and cosmetics can cause cancer. One email floating out there in cyberspace claims that sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS, an ingredient found in many shampoos, can cause cancer over time. The fact is that SLS is an irritant, not a carcinogen. It’s a strong detergent intended to remove oil and soil, but there is no link between use of this product and cancer risk.

These are just some of the rumors you may encounter on the Internet or in your email. When you do come across information like this, make sure you talk to your doctor or a health professional to help you separate fact from fiction. And remember, your American Cancer Society is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-227-2345 or on our Web site at cancer.org, so feel free to give us a call about these issues or if you’re just looking for more information on other things you can do to help yourself and your family stay well and reduce your cancer risk. From all of us here at the American Cancer Society, thanks for watching.