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Cancer myths busted

Wednesday 13 March, 2019

Katherine Lane, Cancer Council 13 11 20


Every day our experienced cancer nurses provide information and support to people affected by cancer. Here, they answer common questions and dispel rumours about cancer.

Are all sunscreens safe to use?

In Australia, people need to rely on sunscreen every day, so it is vital that all sunscreens are safe, effective and good quality. The Therapeutic Goods Administration regulates sunscreens, ensuring that only approved ingredients that are assessed for quality and safety are used. After many vigorous scientific reviews, there is now very strong evidence that commonly used active ingredients in sunscreen do not pose a concern for health.

Cancer Council recommends using an SPF30 or higher sunscreen that is broad spectrum, water resistant and TGA approved. As long as your sunscreen meets these requirements, what brand or ingredients you choose is up to you.

Be wary of products that aren’t TGA approved – these products won’t have been properly tested for effectiveness and may not provide proper sun protection. You can check if a sunscreen is TGA approved by looking on the back of the bottle.

Is there a link between red meat and cancer?

Research suggests that eating red meat and, in particular, processed meat, may increase the risk of bowel cancer.

Cancer Council recognises that red meat is important for supplying iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet. However, because of the link with bowel cancer, no more than three portions a week of red meat are recommended. On other days try fish, chicken and other alternatives.

Three portions are equivalent to about 350 – 500g (about 12 – 18 oz) cooked weight. Limit processed meats such as sausages, frankfurts, bacon and ham.

Does marijuana stop cancer growth?

Limited research has been conducted into using chemical components found in cannabis (called cannabinoids) for medicinal purposes. To date, there is no evidence to show cannabinoids are effective in stopping cancer growth, although some prescribed cannabinoids can provide some symptom relief to patients.

Cancer Council supports further research into the benefits of prescribed cannabis on cancer patients. However, it’s important to note that non-prescribed cannabis (marijuana) that is consumed through smoking is a risk factor for lung disease and other cancers. 

Heard a claim about cancer?

Misleading information can be harmful. If you've heard a claim about cancer and want to know if it is true you can:


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Questions about cancer?

Call or email our experienced cancer nurses for information and support.

Contact a cancer nurse