Cancer Myths

By Charlyn Fargo

November 29, 2019 4 min read

I often have clients come in asking what they should eat to prevent cancer. What's important to prevent nearly any disease is a healthy diet. That translates to lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy. I'm not a proponent of eliminating any food group from your meals.

The American Institute for Cancer Research offers a few insights into common myths surrounding cancer.

Here are a few of the most popular:

Myth: Cancer is caused by inherited genes, so there's nothing you can do about it.

Actually, 40% of cancer cases are preventable by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being more active and not smoking. Only 5-10% of cancers are caused by genetic syndromes, according to the institute.

Myth: Soy can increase your risk for cancer.

Research shows that soy foods in moderation are safe for those diagnosed with cancer and those without cancer. Soy foods contain fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals that can help prevent cancer.

Myth: There is not enough evidence to link stress and cancer risk.

Actually, this one isn't a myth; the link between stress and cancer remains unproven.

Myth: Artificial sweeteners are linked to increased cancer risk.

The truth is there is no strong evidence that links sweeteners, such as saccharin and aspartame, to cancer.

Myth: Coffee is cancer-fighting.

Good news for coffee drinkers: Strong evidence shows that coffee actually reduces the risk for endometrial and liver cancers.

Myth: Eating organic foods versus conventionally grown produce offers you protection against cancer.

The most important thing is to eat fruits and vegetables — more than you do now. There is no strong evidence to support the idea that organic foods offer additional protection against cancer over conventionally grown foods.

Q and A

Q: What is celiac disease?

A: Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten triggers immune system activity causing inflammation and injury to the small intestine lining. Over time, this damage may prevent nutrient absorption. While there is limited clinical evidence on the health benefits of a gluten-free diet in the general population — despite its popularity — it is the standard of care for patients managing symptoms of celiac disease. Celiac disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms can vary significantly.


If you're still looking for a last minute appetizer (because the holiday parties just keep coming), try this shrimp starter. It's from Hy-Vee.


14 frozen or fresh shrimp (26 to 30 count per pound)

1 tablespoon garlic-flavored olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoon taco seasoning, divided

1/2 cup guacamole

1 cucumber, sliced into 14 rounds

Thaw and peel raw shrimp. Toss with olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon taco seasoning. Cook shrimp in skillet until opaque (if already cooked, this will take only 1-2 minutes). Chill shrimp. Divide 1/2 cup guacamole among the partially peeled cucumber slices. Top with shrimp. Sprinkle with additional taco seasoning. Serves 14.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Shutterbug75 at Pixabay

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