There’s nothing new about fake news in cancer

By Jack Robinson

As you plan your weekend bear this in mind: burnt toast and roast potatoes cause cancer.  This was reported to be the Food Standard Agency’s warning to us last month, adding to the lengthy list of potential health hazards we’re all exposed to on a daily basis.

The website Kill or Cure tries to make sense of all this – they’ve helpfully been through newspaper archives to classify every potential cause or cure for cancer, as well as those that, depending on who you ask, can do both.  If you didn’t know, The Mail will tell you that being left-handed puts you at greater risk of developing cancer, so too does Wi-Fi.

It’s easy to laugh off these warnings but, clearly, they sell newspapers.  The combined effect of these stories over time is a distraction from the real issues.

Saturday 4 February is World Cancer Day, a chance to rise above the hype and focus our attention on the three real challenges to improving the lives of people with cancer and their families:

Prevention – Education about the lifestyle factors that we know increase someone’s cancer risk, and support to overcome them.  We should divert our attention from the presence of carcinogens in your Sunday roast to opposing cuts to Stop Smoking Services

Earlier diagnosis – The key to treating cancer is catching it early, and educating the public to know the signs and go to the doctor.  A more productive way to use food to talk about cancer is Worldwide Breast Cancer’s fantastic graphic using lemons to demonstrate the symptoms of breast cancer

Research – We’re in unprecedented territory for innovative, life-changing cancer treatments but there is much more to do.  More than half of UK cancer deaths are from less common cancers with limited treatment options

Since 2014, more than 50,000 people in England have had to wait for more than two months to start their cancer treatment.  We understand the issues facing people with cancer, and the NHS has a detailed strategy for overcoming them.  Overblown newspaper articles about the potential for your dog to give you breast cancer are missing the point.