Don’t Believe The Hype
Google ‘Cancer’’ and you’ll be faced with millions of web pages. And the number of YouTube videos you find if you look up ‘cancer cure’ is similarly vast.
The problem is that much of the information out there is at best inaccurate, or at worst dangerously misleading. There are plenty of evidence based, easy to understand pages about Cancer, but there are just as many, if not more, pages spreading myths.
And it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction, as much of the inaccurate information looks and sounds perfectly plausible. But if you scratch the surface and look at the evidence, many continually perpetuated ‘truths’ become unstuck.
Over the next few weeks, we want to set the record straight on 10 cancer myths we regularly encounter. Driven by the evidence, not by rhetoric or anecdote, we describe what the reality of research actually shows to be true. In this post, we want to set the record straight on 10 cancer myths we regularly encounter. So here is Cancer fact #5
Ask any pathologist – cancer cells aren’t fungal
This ‘theory’ comes from the not-very-observant observation that “cancer is always white”.
One obvious problem with this idea – apart from the fact that cancer cells are clearly not fungal in origin – is that cancer isn’t always white. Some tumours are. But some aren’t. Ask any pathologist or cancer surgeon, or have a look on Google Image search (but maybe not after lunch…).
Proponents of this theory say that cancer is caused by infection by the fungus candida, and that tumours are actually the body’s attempt at protecting itself from this infection.
But there’s no evidence to show that this is true (and plenty of evidence – going back at least as far as 1902 – that it starts from faults our own cells).
Furthermore, plenty of perfectly healthy people can be infected with candida – it’s part of the very normal array of microbes that live in (and on) all of us. Usually our immune system keeps candida in check, but infections can get more serious in people with compromised immune systems, such as those who are HIV-positive.
The ‘simple solution’ is apparently to inject tumours with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). This isn’t even the treatment used to treat proven fungal infections, let alone cancer. On the contrary, there’s good evidence that high doses of sodium bicarbonate can lead to serious – even fatal – consequences.
Some studies suggest that sodium bicarbonate can affect cancers transplanted into mice or cells grown in the lab, by neutralising the acidity in the microenvironment immediately around a tumour. And researchers in the US are running a small clinical trial investigating whether sodium bicarbonate capsules can help to reduce cancer pain and to find the maximum dose that can be tolerated, rather than testing whether it has any effect on tumours.
As far as we are aware, there have been no published clinical trials of sodium bicarbonate as a treatment for cancer.
It’s also worth pointing out that it’s not clear whether it’s possible to give doses of sodium bicarbonate that can achieve any kind of meaningful effect on cancer in humans, although it’s something that researchers are investigating.
Because the body strongly resists attempts to change its pH, usually by getting rid of bicarbonate through the kidneys, there’s a risk that doses large enough to significantly affect the pH around a tumour might cause a serious condition known as alkalosis.
One estimate suggests that a dose of around 12 grams of baking soda per day (based on a 65 kg adult) would only be able to counteract the acid produced by a tumour roughly one cubic millimetre in size. But doses of more than about 30 grams per day are likely to cause severe health problems – you do the maths.