Cancer Confusion – Four Myths Corrected

It is entirely understandable that many people are highly wary of cancer, as the disease has affected so many people in truly grave ways. However, this level of concern has risen to panic in some quarters, which has resulted in some seriously flawed logic and information entering the public domain.

Whether it’s about how cancer is caused or how it can be cured, there are hundreds of incorrect rumors out there, and we debunk four of the most prominent below.

Sugar is giving people cancer

This is not the case, however it is simple to see how this misconception originated and spread. It is true that cancerous cells feed on glucose from the blood, however consuming sugar as part of your diet does not make them absorb more glucose or grow any quicker.

Studio photography of a lump sugar

Furthermore, sugar is not a carcinogen, which means it cannot cause cancer. When consumed in excess, it can contribute to obesity, which does give an individual an increased risk of developing illnesses like cancer, however as part of a balanced diet eating sugar does not make you more susceptible to the disease.

Carrageenan causes cancer

If you’ve heard of this food additive, it’s probably for all the wrong reasons. One of the ingredients most prominently condemned in the media is carrageenan, a seaweed extract that is used to preserve, thicken and stabilize a whole range of foods around the world. Many claim that carrageenan can cause cancer, however their beliefs are backed up by heavily flawed studies, and there is an overwhelming body of scientific research confirming that it is safe.

Part of this confusion is that a different seaweed product, poligeenan, is potentially cancer-causing. However, poligeenan is never found in food and drink. Carrageenan on the other hand is perfectly safe to eat.

Cancer can be treated with bicarbonate of soda

This is the first of two cure myths we debunk in this article, and the logic behind both is rather baffling. Some followers of alternative medicine believe that cancerous tumors can be cured using bicarbonate of soda, on the basis that cancer is actually a fungus – an assumption entirely based on the color of the tumorss.

However, this simply isn’t the case, and even if it was, bicarbonate of soda does not even treat fungal infections anyway. Injecting large quantities of the stuff can also cause health problems, so be sure to steer clear of this “remedy”.

Shark cartilage is a cancer remedy

Another strange misconception about cancer cures is that the cartilage of sharks can be used to remedy the disease. This comes from the belief that the savage sea creatures are actually immune to cancer, however this is not true at all – cancer has been found in sharks in the past.

A sad side to this myth is that thousands of sharks are killed around the world in order to produce pills made from their cartilage, which is sold as a treatment. Therefore, be sure to correct anybody thinking of trying such products.

Carrageenan – What’s The Big Deal?

You may have heard of carrageenan, it’s that secret ingredient being sneaked into your food by evil food corporations… Or is it?

Not exactly. In fact, there’s nothing secret about carrageenan at all. If it’s in an item of food, it will be there on the ingredients label. Plus, there’s no highly technical process behind it – you could make it in your kitchen if you wanted to. Boil some seaweed in a non-acidic broth, dry it, strain it through a coffee filter and finally mill it into a fine IOTA powder. Nothing secret about that.


Plus, it is absolutely fine to eat. Government and food safety authorities around the world say so themselves. Contrary to what you may have read or been told, it can’t cause inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, and it certainly can’t cause cancer. It has even been approved for consumption by infants and new-borns, in the ultimate vote of confidence from the FAO.

So, why are there people claiming that it is unsafe?

This largely stems from a misunderstanding, which has given carrageenan an undeserved reputation for many years. A similar product, poligeenan, has been proven to have adverse health effects. However, the difference between the two is that poligeenan is boiled in an extremely acidic bath which renders it unsafe for human consumption. Putting any item of food through that process would make it unsafe.

Poligeenan is never, under any circumstances, used in the US food industry. There are regulations in place to ensure that it is not found in food.

More confusion comes from Dr Joanne Tobacman, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has carried out extensive research for decades into carrageenan’s safety, however her findings have been repeatedly dismissed by food safety authorities for a range of reasons.

From using poligeenan instead of carrageenan, to using inappropriate concentrations and delivery methods, her findings have been heavily flawed and as such do not carry much weight in the eyes of food science leaders.

It is worth noting that Dr Tobacman was lobbying for the banning of carrageenan years before any research was conducted into the matter, with no evidence to support her claims. Therefore her research has surely been conducted with the intention of finding it to be unsafe, in a biased manner.

If we were to let flawed science get in the way of what we eat, there would be very few foods that we’d still be able to eat. Carrageenan keeps meats moist and dairy products creamy, while the preservative properties also help to reduce food wastage, tackling a significant product that our society is faced with.

Next time you hear about the supposedly deadly effects of carrageenan, be sure to correct and reassure them of the truth. Don’t let rumors overrule sound science.