Common Misconceptions About Food and Cancer


Nutritionist Stephanie Meyers dives into popular misconceptions of food and cancer, and sources that offer reliable information.

Although it is heard or read that nutrition can correlate with the result of cancer, there is no evidence to support these claims, explained expert Stephanie Meyers, senior oncology dietitian and nutritionist at OncoHealth. What you consume, as well as what was consumed in the past doesn’t affect if an individual will experience any kind of cancer diagnosis.

There are many different misconceptions when it comes to food and cancer, but there are a few that remain the most common, including a claim that sugar ‘feeds’ cancer. Although there is no evidence of this, researchers emphasize that it is not sugar that directly causes cancer. Alongside this, the statement that eating certain foods and avoiding others can prevent or cure cancer on its own is false.

Lastly, another misconception is that once you have cancer, what you eat doesn’t matter regarding treatment and survivorship.

“This misconception can be especially upsetting if patients hear it from a provider on their cancer care team. For example, a patient may ask what to eat and when the answer is something like, ‘food doesn’t really impact things one way or another, so eat whatever you want,’ patients may feel disempowered, like they can’t do anything to help themselves,” Meyers told CURE®.

Misinformation, especially online, can be found almost anywhere.

“Googling any type of cancer plus nutrition quickly reveals many different rabbit holes people can go down trying to find reliable, evidence-based answers about cancer and nutrition. Even more concerning is how often these misconceptions are promoted by people with some training (or who claim to have some training) background in healthcare. It can be difficult for people to know how/where to find reputable information on cancer and nutrition,” Meyers explained.

“In terms of nutrition research establishing causation versus correlation can be complicated. Causation means one thing is a direct result of another thing. Correlation means there is some association between two things, but it’s not cause and effect. Add to this the complexity of how people can eat the same thing and absorb and utilize it differently in their body".

“These, along with other factors, make it difficult to always make definitive conclusions about what foods/eating patterns impacts cancer risk and survivorship. Fortunately, we do have decades of rigorous science to inform nutrition guidelines around cancer — but like all evidence-based fields this is an ongoing effort and one where all the answers aren’t fully understood yet,” Meyers stated.

Reliable information can be found online, although it is hard to detect which sources have information that can dependable. Iris Oncology is a reliable telehealth source that features oncology specialized and licensed dietitians, nutritionists, mental health therapists and nurses, Meyers noted. These medical professionals specialize in care experience to patients with all types of cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund is also a reliable source, which presents new global science results from food, nutrition and physical activity in regard to cancer risk and survivorship, according to Meyers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology is dependable as well.

“There are easy to access resources developed and led by providers with significant experience in the field of cancer and nutrition,” Meyers explained. “We want to help you sort out what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to food and whatever type of cancer you’re dealing with.”

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.