Myths about cancer

There are lots of myths about cancer, and the causes of cancer. If you’re young and you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to remember that it’s not your fault – nothing you have done will have caused this.

  • There are a lot of myths about cancer
  • Many causes of cancer are still unknown so that means things get made up.

We have a section on what causes cancer which you might want to read. But here we want to bust some of the big cancer myths. All of these came up in a Teenage Cancer Trust survey on the top 20 myths – and all of them are wrong.

Things that don’t cause cancer

Many causes of cancer are still unknown. That can mean lots of myths get made up – but none of the things listed below cause cancer.


Nothing to worry about here. Kissing does not cause cancer.

You can catch the human papillomavirus (HPV) through sex, oral sex, and skin to skin contact. Some strains of HPV are linked to some cancers, so it’s important to practice safe sex and read up on the HPV vaccine to see if you’re eligible.

Getting kicked in the balls

A boot to the knackers might be very painful, but it won’t give you cancer.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 18-35, though, so check for lumps and get any changes checked out.

Sitting on the loo

Trains. Festivals. Clubs. Not nice places to sit on the loo. But however gross they are, toilets won’t give you cancer.

Eating… too much ketchup

We’re not sure how this one started, but if you like ketchup with your chips, don’t worry – ketchup does not cause cancer.

There’s some evidence that eating lots of fruit and veg – including tomatoes – could protect against cancer. Plus, eating a healthy diet is good for you in lots of other ways.

Eating… jelly babies

Good news – jelly babies don’t cause cancer. Maybe don’t eat them every day, but all food colourings in the UK need to pass strict tests to make sure they’re safe. Some people think more research still needs to be done into this, but right now there’s no evidence to show there’s any risk of cancer linked to food colourings.

Mobile phones

There is no evidence showing using a mobile phone causes cancer.

Keeping your phone in your bra

Like to keep things close to your chest? Don’t worry – keeping your phone in your bra won’t cause cancer.

Living near electricity pylons

Tricky one this. There’s not enough evidence to suggest the magnetic fields around power lines can cause cancer. But that’s not to say there’s absolutely no risk – it’s just that scientists can’t prove there’s a definite connection.


Whatever your gender or sexuality, masturbating is completely normal and healthy, and does not cause cancer.

Mitch Sloan with his shaved head

Myths about cancer busted

You hear all sorts of stories about cancer and what happens to you if you have cancer – none of the ones below are true.

Cancer makes your hair fall out

A lot of people get this one wrong. It’s not cancer that makes hair fall out – it’s the effect of chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, which are types of cancer treatment.

You’re never really cured of cancer

Not true. After ten years in remission, you’re considered cured.

You always die from cancer

This isn’t true. Many people who have cancer survive it. Just ask all the young people we’ve worked with who are fully recovered and well again.

If you don’t inhale cigarette smoke, you won’t get cancer

This one’s dangerous, because smoking can cause cancer – however you do it.

Lung cancer gets talked about most, but smoking also increases the risk of mouth cancer and throat cancer – whether you inhale or not.

So the message to remember is that smoking is bad for you, however you do it.

If you have cancer when you’re pregnant, your baby can get cancer

The placenta (the organ which attaches the baby to the wall of the uterus through the umbilical cord) is an amazing thing. It helps unborn babies get oxygen and nutrients. It takes away waste products. And it stops cancer cells passing from mums to foetuses, meaning babies are kept safe from cancer.

We’re all born with the cancer gene

Wrong again. Some people are born with genetic mutations that increase their risk of getting cancer. But even having these mutations doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get cancer.

Only babies get leukaemia

Leukaemia is the most common cancer in children aged 0-14, but older teenagers and adults get it too. In fact, 9 out of 10 cases are diagnosed in adults.

Only old people get cancer

Teenage Cancer Trust exists because this isn’t true. The older you get, the more likely you are to get cancer, but seven young people aged 13-24 are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. We’re here to make their lives better.