Does anyone believe cancer is contagious?

I ask because my family got cancer all around the same time. It goes like this-my dad's best friend got prostate cancer and died of it. Around the same time my mum got cancer too and had treatment for it. The next year my grandad got cancer and sadly died. 2 years after this we found out my dad had cancer, but with it being prostate cancer, it is very conceivable that he first got it around the same time as my mum and grandad-the same time as his best friend losing his battle with it. Before this no one in our family or their friends had cancer. They were all very healthy people. I guess my theory is that my dad caught it from his friend originally, and passed it onto my mother who then passed it onto my grandad. Maybe their immune systems were down at the time which is why they "caught" it and my grandmother didn't.

I have also noticed in news stories there is a correlation between families getting diagnosed at the same time (I seem to remember one gentleman saying he had lost both his wife and daughter to lung cancer in a very short space of time-his daughter was very young so it seemed odd). This all got me thinking. Before anyone says cancer is 100% not contagious, we don't know what causes cancer yet so I'm not sure how doctors can say for a fact that it isn't in humans. Secondly, contagious cancer occurs in Tasmanian devils-this has been proven, so if this can happen in those creatures I don't see why it can't happen in humans. Has anyone else noticed such correlations in their family/friends?

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  • Hi Rachel,

    I think you got it right when you said their immune systems were down. Supposedly we all have some cancer cells that our immune systems are constantly fighting. Compromise the immune system & there’s a good chance you’ll get cancer. Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago at age 45, I have been studying, reading & talking to other men with prostate cancer. Here’s what we know... Diet is a major factor in getting cancer. Prostate cancer has been associated with diets high in dairy products, including eggs, chicken, turkey, milk, butter etc. also red meats & ANYTHING with sugar. There are world wide study’s that have been going on for many years. Japanese men have some of the lowest cancer cases in the world. Why is that? They eat a lot of vegetables & fish. Very little red meat. Very little dairy & sugar & processed foods. They also drink green tea & a lot of vegetables & spices that lower inflammation in the body, something cancer thrives on.

    It could be something as simple as the environment they live in. High pollution? Do they live by power lines? Smokers? Drinkers? Bad well water? There’s a million different reasons someone can get cancer but it is NOT believed that cancer is contagious. I’d try to look at similarities between where they live, what they did for a living, lifestyles, & eating habits. Cancers are all different. Prostate cancer cannot cause someone else to get breast cancer. Etc. etc. etc. It could be something as simple as an odd coincidence that they all got cancers around the same time. I recommend reading a couple books or online articles on diet & cancer and how much they intertwine.

    I’m deeply sorry for everything you & your family is going through but I think it’s safe to say you won’t be “catching” any cancers from those around you. Unless you hang around a lot of smokers. Start eating a LOT of green vegetables, cut out dairy, meats, sugar, & anything processed. A good immune system is essential to fighting off cancer.

    I wish you luck & would like to follow your post for further input.

    Ray

  • The simple answer is, I don't believe cancer is contagious. Neither do I believe that where it's occurring a lot in a family or group, that it's just coincidence.

    I agree that it is can be due to deficiency in the immune system. That's why statistically speaking, it happens more in later life when the immune system is failing. It can happen also happen in children, sadly, whose immune system hasn't yet fully developed. There are also contagious diseases which affect the immune system, the obvious one being HIV. Another papilloma virus.

    There are also cancers which have a genetic element, e.g. breast cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic.

    There are lifestyle factors and environmental factors.

    The high rate of occurrence you write of is probably due to a combination of these factors I.e. shared genes, shared environment, similar ages and similar lifestyles. In which case some families, as a whole, are more susceptible

    Contagion is where some microorganism, bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus travels by means of some "vector" from one person to another. Vectors include direct physical contact, contact with an object which has been in contact with an infected person, droplet infection, (vapour from exhaled breath) or where material containing a microorganism is somehow introduced into the body, e.g. ingested, injected, by intercourse, etc.

    It doesn't seem possible that cancer cells can "travel" in any of these ways.

    There are things you can do to minimize the risk of cancer as Raymo69 says. Avoiding contact with anyone with cancer is not one of them.

  • Rachel, with cancer being an autoimmune condition, it's very likely that there is a genetic component. Add to that the stress of a loved one suffering so, thereby lowering one's immunity, and you have another possible trigger. Diet may also have an influence with people in the same family likely to be eating similarly, plus, of course, as someone else has mentioned above, the environmental factor.

  • I'm sure the medical professionals will call us stupid for thinking this but I have often wondered the same thing myself. With this disease it never seems to rain but it pours. After all, cancer has got to get into the body from somewhere - and if I didn't have it in my thirties how did I get it in my sixties? Could it be that maybe the illness itself can't be communicated but the "trigger" for it (maybe a virus?) can be passed around? Of course, environmental issues could also be to blame for a multiple outbreak but who knows for sure?

  • Thanks for all the replies-Raymo so sorry to hear of your diagnosis at such an early age, I wish you luck in any treatment you are having.

    I'm not sure about my dad's friend's health, but I know he didn't get any treatment for his PC until it was too late (but then they do say you can "watch and wait" half the time with PC anyway) but I guess he had a more aggressive type.

    My dad had always been extremely healthy, never smoked, drank very little, ate as healthily as possible, hardly anything processed if at all, fit and slim (that's why it was such a massive shock to lose him, even given the PC diagnosis). My mother is the same yet out of the blue she got bowel cancer-cannot think of any reason why she would get that-except the one factor being age, but still fairly young in her mid-fifties. She didn't fit any of the risk factors like always eating red meat and overweight or anything like that.

    My grandad died of lung cancer, again he was very very healthy. He did smoke way back years ago but quit in his 30s and never smoked again. They say your lungs recover though, so it was still a shock he got lung cancer-he was late 70s when he died so he hadn't smoked in 40+ years. Our air is clear and the water is fine around here, no pollution as far as I can tell. My uncle lived a few years longer than my grandad yet smoked up until the last few years (and I don't think it was cancer that got him in the end either). My grandad never had a health complaint the whole time I knew him yet he got cancer and was gone in months, my uncle on the other hand was plagued with emphysema and other health issues yet lasted much longer, go figure.

    Timz-I was going to mention HIV because I note that the symptoms are similar to cancer in the later stages (pain, weight-loss, wasting). I also note that Kaposi's sarcoma, a type of cancer is much more prevalent in AIDS sufferers, and AIDs is something that is contagious, well HIV is before it develops to AIDs. So couldn't it actually be said that this particular type of cancer (Kaposi's) is contagious? Also, aren't some cervical cancers indirectly caused by the HPV virus?

    Celtic-My dads possibly was genetic-his father died of PC too. I know PC and breast cancer have a strong genetic component. It almost seems like it's set to develop in the genes-the cancer starts growing at a certain age as if it's programmed to like puberty or the menopause. Stress I can believe too, my grandad was certainly a worrier and he must've been beside himself when my mum was diagnosed with cancer. She was just recovering and my grandad started having signs of cancer.

    Kevin-I agree with you, the experts are so sure that cancer cannot be contagious yet have no idea what causes it. All they can come up with is genetic reasons (which like I say I do agree with I have seen that pattern) but mostly they blame lifestyle choices. All of the people I know who have had cancer have been slim-in fact I don't even know any overweight or obese people, so I don't know what their cancer rates are, but it seems to me based on what I've seen that seemingly healthy and active people get it more often. It makes no sense to me. You are so right it never rains but it pours! As if one diagnosis of cancer in a lifetime for the family wasn't enough...Sorry it's a long read.

  • Rachel, you are right about cervical cancers and Kaposi's sarcoma. Most (but not all - cancer almost always has exceptions) cervical cancers are triggered by a long term HPV infection. Kaposi's sarcoma is caused by a human herpes virus, especially in immunosupressed people.

    Cancers, including cervical but I'm not sure about Kaposi's sarcoma, are a result of genetic damage to cells disabling the set of growth controls healthy cells have. Many people are studying these genetic changes. Usually the cells have quite badly damaged their genes before becoming noticably cancerous. The body has other defenses against cancer including parts of the immune system, so most badly damaged cells do not become cancers. Cells which divide a lot, like skin, bowel and fluid secreting cells like breast, prostate, thyroid and saliva accumulate genetic errors as they divide and are vulnerable to becoming cancerous.

    One reason cancer diagnosis runs in families is because when one person is diagnosed others get checked. Prostate cancer grows for years before being noticable, so there are lots of men who could be diagnosed if they were tested. Another reason is because of families sharing genetic vulnerabilities to cancer.

    Obesity does seem to contribute to.cancer risk, as does alcohol consumption, but not huge amounts in either case.

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