It’ll give you cancer.

Don’t read this blog…it’ll give you cancer.

What? You think I can’t make a claim like that, without substantiated scientific evidence?

I beg to differ.

See, if the internet can tell me that literally everything I do (or don’t do) causes cancer, then I can warn people away from my blog in hopes of saving them from deadly carcinogens. Better safe than sorry, right? Who knows…10 or 20 years from now, they may discover that reading satirical or sarcastic text causes cancers to form deep in the bowels of your brain.

Why am I so hostile about this stuff?

It’s simple.

I’ve lost loved ones to cancer. I’ve had loved ones survive cancer. I’m no stranger to the subject as a whole, and it’s a very serious thing. Its very seriousness comes from the simple fact that we don’t understand it. We, as a human race, have not uncovered the mystery behind this raging monster. We’ve found ways to slow it down, sometimes, to put a cramp in its style if only for a moment, and on rare occasions eradicate it completely. But the question is – is it ever completely gone? Once cancer has been identified, and every emergency measure has been performed, can we really say it’s gone?

No.

Doctors can pronounce someone “cancer-free”, but it’s about the same thing as saying “you don’t have a cold right now” – then the next day you start sneezing, and voila, all the visible signs emerge. I have a relative who was just diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and the doctors say that based on the amount of cancer in his body and how far it has spread, it’s probably been growing undetected for ten years. TEN YEARS.

I think it’s irresponsible, given how feeble our grasp of cancer is (especially for those of us not even in the medical field), to spread information about what does and does not cause it. There is a flood of information out there, all of it supposedly backed by scientific proof, to say that everything we do or every product we use is responsible.

The fact of the matter is, none of these claims can be valid, without verification of how much and what type of exposure to a product/chemical/activity causes cancer. And that’s where science is failing us at the moment: we don’t know exactly what or how much. If we did, we’d have a cure for this thing by now.

I see mothers freaking out about products their family uses, because they read an article about how those products “may contain suspected carcinogens”. They scrap the products, and race out to buy something all-natural and organic instead. And while I certainly don’t think there’s any harm in going organic, I do think there is grave harm done by reading these articles. We, as readers, don’t process the “may” or the “suspected” or even the “contain”: we read “carcinogens” and our brains go into automatic flip-out mode. We try to mentally tally how long we’ve been using these cancer-causers, and wonder what the chances are that we will now get cancer – or if, gasp, it may already be too late.

From a health standpoint, I firmly believe that there is as much harm done by these articles as by a 6-pack of soda, a bottle of non-organic sunscreen, or even a once-in-a-great-while cigarette. The stress we put on ourselves by being determined to evade cancer’s deadly grasp is absurd. I watch these mothers riddled with guilt over the fact that they used a certain brand of shampoo on their child’s head. It’s as if they truly believe that they have failed their child, as if Junior’s skull is now full of carcinogens and it will only be a matter of years before he is admitted to the terminal ward.

I read an article that attempted to explain just how grossly misleading these carcinogen claims are. It tackled the issue of diet soda (specifically the kind sweetened with aspartame). Essentially, in order for the carcinogenic potential of diet soda to be realized, a person would have to drink 40-50 cans a day (yes, per day!) for decades, and never consume foods with antioxidant or nourishing properties. Then there’d be a chance of developing cancer.

Now, I have no way of knowing if that article held any validity. For all I know, it was something planted on the internet by a company that manufactures diet soda. But that’s the rub with all of these articles, whether positive or negative – there is no way to know if the information is valid.

Some people would argue that it’s irresponsible not to report every possible carcinogen, and/or take every precaution. I can understand that point of view. But I can’t agree with it, if only for the fact that I believe mental health is every bit as important as physical health. Why are people willing to flood their bodies with stress hormones as they try to rid their lives of every possible carcinogen? If we know that prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer, and decades of smoking can cause lung cancer, is it not reasonable to think that years of bathing our insides in unhealthy stress hormones could also cause cancer?

It’s the price we pay for having such advanced technology. The internet, while a priceless resource in many ways, allows us to be too informed. (Yes, folks, sometimes ignorance is bliss.) It would behoove all of us to take a step back and focus most on living lives that bring us peace and fulfillment. That’s not to say we can’t be careful – and indeed there are some causes of cancer whose validity can no longer be denied – but let us also be careful that we don’t trade one deadly habit for another.

 

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