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August 15, 2022

A new Harvard tool fact-checks cancer claims.

A new Harvard tool helps fact-check cancer claims.

The Internet is filled with cancer-causing substance warnings. Shady websites and sensational social media posts warn against antiperspirants, scented candles, and bras. Avoid disposable chopsticks, microwaves, radon gas, and other hazards. There are so many frightening or misleading claims that it is difficult to know which ones to take seriously. According to Timothy Rebbeck, a cancer researcher and the Vincent L. Gregory, Jr., Professor of Cancer Prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, "many people have unnecessary fears about things that might cause cancer, or they're overly cautious about things that aren't supported by science."

Rebbeck and his coworkers have developed a free tool to cut through the confusion.


How does the Cancer FactFinder work?


Experts from the Zhu Family Center for Global Cancer Prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Center for Cancer Equity and Engagement at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center collaborated to develop the Cancer FactFinder. It provides reliable information regarding the veracity of certain cancer claims. "It's a place to go when you hear something and don't know how to interpret it," says Rebbeck.

When you access Cancer FactFinder, you can search


for cancer claims. Enter a specific term (such as "scented candles") or simply scroll through the entire list of claims the team has investigated. "Currently, we have roughly 70. We will continue to add and update them over time, "Rebbeck says." Learn how claims are checked for accuracy. The Cancer FactFinder team relies on the expert opinion of eminent scientists and health organisations, in addition to scientific evidence from human studies. Animal experiments are not considered. "It is possible to induce cancer in laboratory animals by feeding them or rubbing them with a particular compound." That does not mean it causes human cancer, "Rebbeck asserts.

Discover the members of the Cancer FactFinder team. In addition to Rebbeck and his colleagues, there are a variety of scientific specialists and community advocates from groups such as the

BayState Health
The Boston Cancer Support
Boston University
Men of Color: Health Awareness
Silent Spring Institute
Yale University

What can you look up?


From an acidic diet to wax that is sprayed on fruits and vegetables, Cancer FactFinder's verified claims vary from A to almost Z.

Given the amount of evidence in front of us, each listing provides an instantaneous indication of whether or not the claim is credible. A green checkmark indicates that the assertion is likely accurate. A red X indicates that the assertion is likely false. A question mark implies that there is insufficient evidence to tell if a cancer link exists. You will learn what the science says, how to reduce your risk of a specific cancer, and where to find additional credible information on a subject.

Performing a cancer fact check
 

Let's imagine, for example, that you want to go on a hike with friends through a park, and you go to the shop to get bug spray to fight off mosquitoes and ticks because you know they can spread diseases like West Nile disease and Lyme disease. As you go over the choices, you recall hearing that bug spray has been linked to cancer.

Instead of stressing, go to Cancer FactFinder and enter "bug spray." You'll notice a red X indicating that no evidence linking bug spray to human cancer has been identified. You'll see as well.

  

Which insecticide chemicals have raised concerns?
 

If you're worried about certain ingredients, learn how to apply insect spray properly and how to use alternative repellents.

Or you may say that all you want is to learn more about the numerous cancer claims. Remember the ones we've already mentioned? It turns out that claims linking certain products to cancer, including bras, antiperspirants, disposable chopsticks, microwaves, acidic diets, and wax sprayed on produce, are untrue. It is true that scented candles are frequently used and that radon gas causes cancer.

Empowerment is the ultimate objective, claims Rebbeck.

Everyone should start asking questions, learn how to get trustworthy information, consider what it means to them personally, and discuss lifestyle choices with their families and medical professionals. That, we hope, will be the conclusion of this. "
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Disclaimer:

No Health content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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