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“Everything Gives You Cancer”

Graphic by McKenna '14

Graphic by McKenna ’14

Last week, as I watched Community on my laptop, my mom came into my bedroom and yelled, “ Maddy! Why are you watching TV on a school night?! We talked about this. If you are going to watch TV, please put something in between you and your computer.”  My mom has a theory that the radiation from my laptop will give me lung, stomach, thyroid, or breast cancer.

Therefore, she believes that every time I use my computer, I need to create space between its destructive properties and myself. But I always wonder: Is this theory just paranoia, or is her claim justified? People should learn the difference between arbitrary superstition and educated concern.

Cancer is something that people do not like to talk about because everyone knows someone who has been affected by it, but when we do talk about it, we talk about how to avoid it. Here’s a quick list of things that I have commonly heard are cancer-causing: computers, cell phones, cigarettes, the sun, walking outside in the LA smog and genetics. Also, with the help of Google, I found some interesting opinions about what else might give us cancer: Chinese food, lack of exercise, vitamins, tight bras, left handedness, hair dyes, not having a twin and bus stations.

This is the shortened version.  The full list included over 100 different foods, lifestyles and objects, worse than my mom’s worries by a long shot. If these claims are true, I really hope that my lack of a twin is not cancerous.

These claims are difficult to prove or disprove, so people tend to create their own theories. Exercise- and juice-obsessed Angelenos will be quick to tell you that the Diet Coke you’re drinking will give you cancer, but your doctor might disagree. The two studies that have been conducted to determine if the sweetener in the soda, aspartame, can cause cancer contradict each other’s conclusions. One proved that it causes tumors; the other negated this finding.

Some of these claims have been proven; for example, cigarette-smoking and sun exposure are proven cancer-inducers. However, these days people misuse this idea and frequently replace “unhealthy” with “gives you cancer.”

People ignorantly walk around feeling fearful of obtaining this destructive and mutinous disease from everyday things. In my opinion, paranoia about cancer is unnecessary. Fretting about foods that you like just because they have above average sugar content is a waste of time.

With a little research and reasonable caution, we can overcome our paranoia and turn it into exercised caution. There are some very real things that can actually give you cancer, like smoking and radiation, and everyone should be aware of them instead of worrying about the effects of Diet Coke. Hopefully, in a few years, someone will find a cure so everyone’s loved ones will be spared, and no one will miss out on the lo mein because they thought it would kill them.