Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Many Americans Believe Cancer Myths

Misconceptions About Personal Risk of Cancer Common, Survey Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 26, 2007 -- True or not: Underwire bras cause breast cancer, and the risk of dying from cancer in the U.S. is increasing.

If you answered “no” to the first statement, and “yes” to the second, you probably know as much as the average American about cancer risk, according to a newly published survey by the American Cancer Society (ACS).

The 12-question survey revealed that a surprising number of Americans believe scientifically unproven claims concerning cancer.

The questions included those about cancer risk associated with smoking, commercial tanning, and behaviors, such as the use of electronic devices and personal hygiene products.

The notion that underwire bras cause cancer is pure urban myth that has been making the rounds on the Internet for the past several years, Kevin Stein, PhD, of the ACS, tells WebMD.

Death Risk Dropping

Nearly seven in 10 people surveyed (68%) incorrectly believed the risk of dying from cancer was increasing in the U.S.

While the overall number of cancer deaths has been rising, this is because the population is increasing, as is the average age of Americans.

But statistics make it clear that an individual's risk of dying from cancer has been going down over the last two decades, while the five-year survival rate among people with the disease has been going up, says Stein.

“It is not hard to understand why people would believe their risk of dying from cancer is greater, but the implications for prevention and treatment are troubling,” Stein tells WebMD. “If people believe we aren’t successfully treating cancer or if they believe a certain behavior is not a risk factor, they might be more likely to engage in that behavior or put off seeking treatment.”

Stein points out that despite the growing and aging population, the actual number of cancer deaths in the U.S. fell last year for the first time in the history of cancer surveillance.

What You Don’t Know ...

The 957 adults who responded to the survey did reasonably well on many of the questions, with two-thirds correctly identifying at least seven of the 12 statements as false.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas