Dr Faye Lynette Lim, Consultant, Division of Radiation Oncology, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the SingHealth group, dispels common cancer myths and presents the facts.

Myth: Excessive use of mobile (cellular) phones can cause a brain tumour and specific types of cancer, e.g. skin cancer and testicular cancer.

Fact: Mobile phones don’t cause brain tumours or cancer. Mobile phones use radiofrequency (RF) waves, to send and receive signals from cellular towers. These RF waves are a form of non-ionizing radiation. There is no conclusive evidence to prove that these RF waves can cause a brain tumour or cancer. The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the safety of mobile phones in the United States says: “The majority of studies published have failed to show an association between exposure to radiofrequency from a cell phone and health problems.”

Myth: Artificial sweeteners can cause cancer.

Fact: Artificial sweeteners commonly used as sugar substitutes, are safe to use. Studies have been conducted on the safety of these artificial sweeteners, e.g. saccharin, aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett), and there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that they are associated with cancer risk in humans.

Myth: Excessive consumption of sugar can worsen your cancer.

Fact: Eating sugar will not worsen your cancer. Studies have not found any link between eating sugar and cancer though a high-sugar diet can cause weight gain and obesity. Obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing some types of cancer, e.g. colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Myth: Heating plastic containers in the microwave can release toxins which cause cancer.

Fact: All plastic containers which say ‘microwave-safe’ are completely safe to use in your microwave oven. However, it’s important to follow the instructions on the container, e.g. remove the lid before use. Plastic containers which are not labeled microwave-safe should not be used in the microwave since they can melt and leak chemicals into your food.

Please note: plastic containers and bottles that contain ready-to-eat foods such as yogurt, cream cheese, mayonnaise and peanut butter are not microwave-safe.

Myth: Using plastic bottles to store water or freezing them can cause cancer. Disposable water bottles contain a harmful substance called DEHA and re-using them can cause cancer.

Fact: You can safely store water in plastic bottles as long as the bottle is in good condition and can be cleaned with soap and water to prevent the growth of bacteria. This also holds true for disposable plastic water bottles, which can be re-used as long as they are in good condition. According to the American Cancer Society, “DEHA is not inherent in the plastic used to make these bottles.” There is also no scientific evidence to suggest that you can’t freeze plastic water bottles.

Read on to learn about cancer myths and facts relating to antiperspirants, bras and hair dyes.

Ref: Q15