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So you believe microwave ovens cause cancer? Think again

People still have a poor awareness of a number of known cancer risk factors such as obesity or eating processed meat.

Large swathes of people have “mythical” beliefs when it comes to the causes of cancer, a study from University College London and the University of Leeds has found.

You might think it, but these things do not cause cancer:

Electromagnetic frequencies and living near power lines

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Gareth Fuller/PA)

Electric and magnetic fields are invisible areas of energy (also called radiation) that are produced by electricity, which is the movement of electrons, or current, through a wire, according to the National Cancer Institute in the US.

The Cancer Council of Western Australia says there is limited evidence for a weak link between intense and prolonged exposure to magnetic fields and childhood leukaemia. However, a definitive link has not been demonstrated – but it remains an active area of research internationally. There is inadequate evidence to support an association between exposure to ELF electric and magnetic fields and other types of cancer in adults or children.

Stress

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(Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Some people have suggested a link between psychological stress (which is what people experience under mental, physical or emotional pressure) and an increased risk of cancer. However, there is no strong evidence for this. Most studies have not found that such stress increases the risk of cancer.

However, people under stress can sometimes behave in unhealthy ways, such as smoking, overeating or drinking heavily, which do increase their risk of many cancers. If you’re under stress, it is important to try to find other ways of coping, such as doing physical activity, Cancer Research UK says.

Artificial sweeteners

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(Jonathan Brady/PA)

Cancer Research UK and the US National Cancer Institute have said sweeteners do not cause cancer.

“Large studies looking at people have now provided strong evidence that artificial sweeteners are safe for humans,” says Cancer Research UK.

Food additives

These are ingredients added to foods for various reasons – for example, to add colour, enhance flavours or to make them last longer. All additives, including artificial sweeteners, are assessed for safety before they are used in foods. An E number is a reference number given to food additives that have passed safety tests and have been approved for use in the UK and throughout the European Union.

The only additives for which evidence has shown a link with cancer are nitrites and nitrates, which are used as preservatives in processed meat. Eating processed meat is strongly associated with an increased risk of bowel and stomach cancer.

Using mobile phones

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(Lauren Hurley/PA)

In 2015, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks concluded that, overall, the epidemiologic studies on mobile phone radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation exposure did not show an increased risk of brain tumours or of other cancers of the head and neck region.

The committee also said epidemiologic studies did not indicate increased risk for other malignant diseases, including childhood cancer.

GM food

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(Joe Giddens/PA)

Avoiding GM foods will neither stop nor prevent carcinogenesis, according to research in the medical journal Current Oncology.

The article concludes that eating fresh foods is preferable to eating processed foods, and fresh GM foods (or the nutritional derivatives from GMFs) are regularly and globally eaten in vast quantities without any proven side effects.

Physical trauma

Bumps, bruises or other injuries do not cause cancer. Sometimes doctors may discover a tumour when they are treating a person for an injury, but it was not the injury that caused the cancer, the Cancer Council of Australia says.

Chronic inflammatory processes may at times increase the risk of certain cancers, but these instances only account for a small fraction of cases.

Plastic bottles

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(Jonathan Pow/PA)

There are claims that chemicals in plastic drinks bottles, cling film and food containers can cause cancer by seeping into the contents. While some studies have shown that a very small amount of chemicals in plastic packaging can get into drinks or food when heated, these amounts have been well within safe limits, which are very strictly regulated in the UK.

And the things that can lead to cancer:

Getting sunburnt

Exposure to another person’s cigarette smoke

Doing less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five times per week

Smoking

Eating red/processed meat

Not eating five portions of fruit/veg

Drinking more than one unit of alcohol

Being overweight

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