The “hoaxes” about cancers that are harmful to health

The “hoaxes” about cancers that are harmful to health

Fake news on health issues are the most dangerous (and bad) because they leverage those who, hoping to get well, are willing to do anything. Giovanni Apolone, scientific director of the Istituto dei Tumori in Milan, explains why correct information is also a first form of treatment.


Malice and disinformation: these were not the ingredients that Tim Berners-Lee had included in his idea of ​​the World Wide Web, when online began. 

Despite himself, 30 years after the birth of the network, its creator had to sound an alarm  to ensure that the quality of the information circulated on the platform designed and created free to connect billions of people in the world is monitored.

Instead, the ake news continue to be a trap for users who daily use the Web in search of answers and useful advice. 

deception that becomes seriously dangerous when false news – or information knowingly constructed in the wrong way – concerns health issues.

Fake news and hope to heal

In Italy alone, it is estimated that in a year about 8 and a half million people encounter distorted medical information ( Censis data ) when consulting sources coming mainly from the web and social networks.

Why is it so easy to believe in “hoaxes” ? And with what consequences for those who, for example, are looking for explanations or clarifications on the treatment of cancer? 

We talked about it with Giovanni Apolone, scientific director of the Milan Cancer Institute .

Here an important human feeling takes over: hope – explains Apolone -. In Italy there are about 380 thousand new cases a year , more than a thousand a day.

Despite the successes achieved – for which  we are now able to heal 60% of tumors , with peaks around 90% for some very common forms – the frequency of the disease and the number of deaths have risen.

The idea of ​​contracting a pathology whose meaning still refers to the concept of ‘incurable’ sets in motion a series of actions in patients and their families for which every possible solution is sought in the hope , in fact, of obtaining some results . 

To this it must be added that a low knowledge fueled by a lack of familiarity with scientific information generates opinions and behaviors that do not help “.

And it is precisely here, therefore, that it is important to distinguish between false content that is obviously harmful to health and true news that has not been communicated clearly . 

In medicine and oncology – explains the doctor and researcher – the research produces evidence that can be very interesting for the public, but which takes years, decades, to implement. 

An example is the field of immutherapy : this area of ​​care that is changing life with important results for many cancer patients and a theme awarded with the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2018 was studied and hypothesized 20 years ago and only today we are really able to appreciate its validity. 

Another example is given by the news reporting the preliminary and promising results of new drugs for the treatment of tumors: from the first news to the probable commercialization of the formulation it could take up to 8-10 years. Punctually, however, after such news was spread, at the Institute we are contacted by many patients eager to have information on this possible drug therapy.

It is important to communicate the progress of research, but without feeding illusions in the population ”.

Fake news on prevention and treatment

Foods with miraculous properties, anti-cancer supplements, alternative therapies: it is difficult to find your way around information that perhaps has the purpose of enriching someone rather than providing a real service .

We know that the causes of the development of a tumor are linked to the macro -environment (such as pollution ), lifestyle (nutrition), and voluptuous habits (smoking, alcohol, sedentary lifestyle) – explains Apolone – the research promotes a concept of prevention “Global” not focusing on particular sports or on some superfoods with problem-solving qualities.

Many patients ask us for reassurance and confirmation from advertising or word of mouth intercepted here and there by non-authoritative and secure sources.

The same is true for alternative treatments of unproven and unrecognized efficacy : the risk of escaping traditional therapies to embrace philosophies or guides of dubious origin and no efficacy can lead to terrible consequences for the patient’s health.

Our specialists , this is an approach to counter the circulation of incorrect information, respond to all the requests that reach the Institute from the public and patients. 

In particular, we are building a series of studies and initiatives to raise awareness among the population on correct prevention and the possibilities of treatment : to do this, we are involving some patients to better understand what information people need and how to transmit it in the clearest and most effective way. direct possible.

Finally, I like to add that there are no conspiracies to hide the truth from people: on the contrary, research makes the study data available to the scientific community with a view to transparency . 

It could be a good advice to invest some of the time you spend on the web in deepening , comparing information to be more aware of your decisions, using reliable and certified sources “.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours