Eight misconceptions about cancer, put to the test


Eight misconceptions about cancer, put to the test
Written by madishthestylebar

Does drinking a little wine every day reduce the risk of cancer? Is smoking four or five cigarettes a day safe? No wonder if the answers to these questions are not completely clear to you. Witness the barometer of the National Cancer Institute (INCa), which questioned nearly five thousand French people aged 15 to 85 on carcinogenic risk factors. The results of this survey, published on Monday, January 30, reveal preconceived ideas that die hard. Here are eight reviewed.

“You have to smoke at least twenty cigarettes a day to risk cancer”

It’s wrong

One out of two smokers underestimates the risks related to their tobacco consumption. In particular concerning the danger threshold, that is to say the number of cigarettes smoked per day or the number of years of smoking likely to trigger cancer.

Smokers thus think, wrongly, that the risk of tobacco-related cancer only exists after 9.2 cigarettes per day and 13.4 years of smoking. More than one smoker in five (21.2%) even considers that there is a risk of cancer linked to tobacco only beyond twenty cigarettes a day.

However, there is no threshold below which the risk of lung cancer or cardiovascular disease is zero, recalls Public Health France (SPF). Light smokers are not immune to the risks. According to a 2005 study published in the British journal Tobacco Control, smoking one to four cigarettes a day is associated with a three-fold higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease. That of dying from lung cancer is multiplied by 2.79 in men and by 5.03 in women. The risk of death from any cause is increased by 50%.

“Smokers inhale toxic products every day. You may reduce your consumption, very often, needing the same amount of nicotine, you will draw much more on your cigaretteadds Anne-Laurence Le Faou, addictologist at the Georges-Pompidou European Hospital and president of the French-speaking Society of Tabacco.

“Smoking a lot is more dangerous than smoking for a long time”

It’s wrong

Whether or not they smoke, six out of ten people believe that the number of cigarettes smoked per day is more dangerous than the duration of smoking. However, according to INCa and SPF, “prolonged exposure to carcinogenic substances in tobacco smoke is much more dangerous”. Thus, when the duration of smoking is multiplied by two, the risk of cancer is multiplied by twenty. Doubling the daily consumption of tobacco doubles the risk of cancer. The earlier we stop, the better, points out the Institute, considering that it “it’s never too late to quit”.

“Playing sports cleans your lungs of tobacco”

It’s wrong

More than half of respondents subscribe to the misconception that “playing sports cleans the lungs of tobacco”. Again, this idea is completely false. “There is no restorative effect of sport on the lungs”answers The Faou. Because even if we play sports, “There is a daily aggression of the respiratory tract by tobacco smoke, loaded with many toxic substances which will attack the walls of the respiratory tree. It destroys the vibrating cilia which eliminate these inhaled toxins”.

This “direct attack” of the respiratory tract explains the occurrence in smokers “infectious, inflammatory diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and obstructive pulmonary disease, and cancers, in particular lung cancer”. Furthermore, sport cannot cure the daily discomfort caused by “cough and shortness of breath associated with tobacco use”she adds. “The fouling of the lungs as well as the vessels and the heart, in particular by tars, is not reversible by means of a sporting activity”, adds Marion Adler, tobacco specialist at the Antoine-Béclère hospital (AP-HP). The only way, she says, to ” to clean “ his lungs from the effects of tobacco, is to ” stop smoking “.

“The electronic cigarette is more harmful than the traditional cigarette”

It’s wrong (but it’s not completely harmless)

More than one in two French people (52.9%) consider electronic cigarettes to be as or more harmful than tobacco cigarettes. They are also mostly convinced (82.7%) that the nicotine it contains can cause cancer.

According to Jérôme Foucaud, head of the human and social sciences, epidemiology and public health research department at INCa, the electronic cigarette is “unquestionably” less harmful than cigarettes. One of the main harmful elements associated with cigarettes, carbon monoxide is “from combustion” of it. “This combustion phenomenon, we do not have it in the electronic cigarette”he explains. “The elements currently available do not demonstrate a link between electronic cigarettes and the risk of cancer.he continues. It doesn’t mean it’s harmless either. »


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“The idea that what is toxic in tobacco is nicotine is totally wrong. It is not toxic, but addictive. It is neither bad for the heart nor for the lungs, and it is not carcinogenic, add Mme Adler. It is also because it is not toxic to health that it can be used for people who suffer from any disease, including lung cancer.she explains.

If health experts advise against electronic cigarettes for non-smokers, “However, it can allow smokers to quit smoking while retaining pleasure”continues the tobacco specialist, in particular in addition to “nicotine substitutes” so as not to feel the effects of lack. However, she must “remain a first step, because the goal is the total cessation of tobacco”. For 30% of vapers who use electronic cigarettes, the objective is to reduce their cigarette consumption.

Read our survey: Article reserved for our subscribers Is vaping safe? Questions about a “mysterious epidemic”

“Drinking a little wine reduces the risk of cancer”

It has never been proven

Nearly a quarter of respondents mistakenly believe that drinking a little wine reduces the risk of cancer rather than not drinking it at all. Only one in two respondents say that one drink of alcohol a day increases the risk of cancer.

So, can wine prevent the risk of cancer? No study has ever demonstrated this link, answers Mickael Naassila, president of the French Society of Alcoholism (SFA). “The more you drink, the greater the risk of cancer. But even with low levels of consumption, the risk of developing certain cancers is increased, continues the professor. The risk of breast cancer is thus increased from one drink a day. »

“There are no safe levels of alcohol consumption for your health, any consumption involves a risk”, concludes Mr. Naassila. The researcher links these received ideas about wine to “old beliefs” lending him “antioxidant properties”and points to “biased studies” applying a “bad methodology”. “One study claimed that resveratrol [un antioxydant naturel] present in red wine would prevent one cancer in 100,000. I don’t see how we could see protective effects there. You would have to drink huge amounts of red wine, and therefore alcohol, which is carcinogenic. »

According to him, the theory of cardiovascular benefits associated with wine consumption is also ” invalid “. “Alcohol is a hypertensor. It can induce heart rhythm disorders, therefore atrial fibrillation ”, he says. This is demonstrated by a recent American study on the subject.

“Stress increases the risk of cancer”

It has never been proven

Nearly eight out of ten French people believe that “bear the stress of modern life” is a carcinogenic risk factor. “Failing to express emotions” (43.90%), “having been weakened by traumatic experiences” (68.10%) are also perceived as risk factors. An opinion that grows stronger with each edition of the barometer.

However, this link has never been proven. “At present, we have no data that proves that there is a link between emotions and cancer risk”explains Jérôme Foucaud, of INCa.

“Solar ultraviolet rays are more harmful than artificial UV rays”

It’s wrong

Nine out of ten people declare that exposure to the sun constitutes a risk of cancer, but the French nevertheless lack information on the subject. For example, 20% believe that exposure to artificial ultraviolet rays is less harmful than exposure to the sun. Nevertheless, “UV rays, whether natural or artificial, are classified as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer”recalls the barometer.

“UV rays play an important role in the genesis of skin cancers, cataracts and other eye conditions, and they lower the immune defenses”, detailed, in 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends the outright banning of tanning booths. And to add: “There is no evidence that any type of tanning bed is less harmful than natural exposure to the sun. »

“Epidemiological data show that having been exposed only once in a lifetime to a device emitting artificial UV results in a 15% increase in the risk of developing cutaneous melanoma”adds the National Food Safety Agency (Anses).

“Wearing sunscreen once allows you to be exposed all day”

It’s wrong

Few of them believe it, but 6.5% of 15-75 year olds who have never had cancer still consider that putting on sunscreen just once is enough to expose themselves to the sun all day without risk.

“The idea of ​​sun protection appeared, but the protection put forward is not the most optimal”, analyzes Jérôme Foucaud. In France, the perception of tanning remains rather positive. Nevertheless, “tanned skin is just scarred skin”.

“Exposure to ultraviolet radiation, of natural or artificial origin, remains the leading cause of skin cancer, including melanoma, reminds SPF. Each year, 80,000 new [cas de] skin cancers are diagnosed. »

When should you protect yourself from UV rays?

To limit exposure to UV rays, the INC recommends above all to wear covering clothing, category 3 sunglasses and to stay in the shade, especially between noon and 4 p.m. The application of an index 50 sunscreen every two hours is done in addition – without forgetting to renew it after swimming or sports. But even the 50 index cream does not filter 100% UV rays, so it should not be an excuse for longer exposure. As for children under 3 years old, they simply should not be exposed to the sun.

#misconceptions #cancer #put #test


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