Hoaxes & Rumors

The Johns Hopkins Cancer Hoax Warning

The Johns Hopkins Cancer Hoax Warning

A message claiming to be from Johns Hopkins tells of alternative ways to fight cancer. Is this information real?

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It’s a hoax.

Johns Hopkins has gone to the unusual measure of categorically debunking virtually everything mentioned in this hoax.

A Facebook post of this “information” has been shared over a quarter of a million times on Facebook, and its origins date back to an email that was circulated for years prior to the Johns Hopkins refutation in 2009. The hoax first appeared back in 2007.

Let’s take a look at the text of the information being passed around in 2013:

from Johns Hopkins


1. Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.

2. Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.

3. When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.

4. When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.

5. To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.

6. Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastrointestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.

7. Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.

8. Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.

9. When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.

10. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.

11. An effective way to battle cancer is to STARVE the cancer cells by not feeding it with foods it needs to multiply.

What cancer cells feed on:

a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Note: Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.

b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastrointestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells will starved.

c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.

d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells.

To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.

12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines will become putrefied and leads to more toxic buildup.

13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.

14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.

15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor.

Anger, unforgiving and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.

16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.


Johns Hopkins Response

In their response to the hoax above, Johns Hopkins begins their dissertation by flatly denying any connection to it:

“Johns Hopkins did not publish the information, which often is an email attachment, nor do we endorse its contents.  The email also contains an incorrect spelling of our institution as “John” Hopkins; whereas, the correct spelling is “Johns” Hopkins. For more information about cancer, please read the information on our web site or visit the National Cancer Institute.  Please help combat the spread of this hoax by letting others know of this statement.”

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American Cancer Society Response

The American Cancer Society has also issued a response to this false information, noting, “Johns Hopkins had nothing to do with the email nor do they consider its contents valid.”

Bottom Line

The popularly-shared cancer warning is not by Johns Hopkins, which has refuted virtually everything contained in the message.

Although the message has been in circulation since 2007, and has been categorically refuted by a variety of websites, including by Johns Hopkins, it continues to see surges in sharing several times a year.

Updated November 22, 2014
Originally published February 2013

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  • Victoria R.

    So, basically all new cells in our body have the ability to become cancer cells, but our body has a checking system that prevents mistakes that will lead to this.

  • Victoria R.

    You are miss interpreting John Hopkins is saying. You have to understand our cells replicate by following a template that is already there from a previous cell. It’s like when you are copy a paragraph a teacher has written on the board. As you go along you will make mistakes. Our body is the same it will make mistakes as our cells duplicate DNA to make new cells. These mistakes can either not matter because it ends up telling our body the same thing it has to do (Like a synonym for a word. Melancholy and Gloomy mean the same thing). Or the mistake can lead to cancer. But since our body goes back and reads DNA over to check for mistakes it can fix them before everything is in a sense finalized. However, when these mistakes are over looked is when diseases and other problems occur in the human body (i.e. cancer).

    Technically it is a little more complicated than that but I am giving a simplified version. As an undergraduate science major in collage who also studies cancer in a research lab, I can give a very complicated explanation that most people will tune out after the first 30 seconds.

  • Timothy Campbell

    P.S. I read over the rebuttal from Johns Hopkins and I found some of it a bit too eager to declare the entire piece wrong, wrong, wrong. This part in particular annoyed me:

    “Surgery is the first line of treatment for many types of cancer. It does not cause cancer to spread.”

    When I had a kidney removed for kidney cancer, the doctor also had to excise one lymph node and (for safety reasons) scrape out another one. Is Johns Hopkins claiming that when scraping out a lymph node that not a single cancer cell will migrate into the lymphatic system?

    Methinks they doth protest too much. I would have preferred if they’d said something a bit more objective, like, “This rarely happens.”

    I also spotted this part of the rebuttal:

    “Among the trillions of cells in the human body, inevitably everyone has some abnormal or atypical cells that possess some of the characteristics of cancer cells, most resolve themselves and never result in cancer…”

    They’re trying to disprove that the immune system destroys cancer cells, so how do they do it? They say that some cells have “some of the characteristics of cancer cells” but aren’t actually cancer cells because they “resolve themselves.”

    Okay, so they’re like cancer cells but they’re not cancer cells because they don’t turn into full-blown cancer. This kind of nit-picking sounds like a typical internet debate.

    I could raise similar complaints about some of the other items in the rebuttal.

    I’m not saying the original piece is accurate, or even worth reading. I’m just not too impressed by the rebuttal’s attempt to paint it as entirely false from top to bottom. There seems to have been a bit of an objectivity breakdown.

  • Timothy Campbell

    Some of the information in that piece sounds correct. It is my impression that cancer cells do form in healthy people, but the body recognizes them as damaged and destroys them.

    Is it fair to call this piece a “hoax”? My impression is that it is based on some accurate information and edited to include some personal beliefs. In fact, I would go so far as to predict that items 1 to 10 were copied from the same source, and item 11 onward were added later, possibly by more than one person.

    When I hear the word “hoax” I expect to see something that was created to knowingly deceive. If this piece is a “hoax” then so is all religion. I try not to mix up people who consciously lie with people who, with the best of intentions, spew inaccuracies.

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