Future biophysicist; therefore, loves science and fights against pseudoscience.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the 21st century. It has garnered the attention of not only scientific and medical research studies, but also media outlets.
Many Armenian media outlets regularly turn their attention to cancer and its methods of treatment, but many of the published articles run contrary to modern medicine.
In anti-scientific reports on cancer in the Armenian-language internet, the method of treating cancer with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is the most common. Cited in many of the articles is an Italian doctor by the name of Tullio Simoncini, who considers cancer an easily treatable fungus, and chemotherapy — a hoax. Not only 1in.am, Mamul.am, Tert.am, and other local Armenian news websites, but also the specialized site Doctors.am referred to Simoncini.
Though the latter article states that the website bears no responsibility for the contents of the article, the existence of such an article on a website of medical information may elicit greater trust in the method. In all these news stories, Simoncini is presented in a positive light — this, a man who was convicted of a murder charge due to wrong treatment.
168.am and Panorama.am take it one step further, adding lemon to the soda and claiming that this combination is 10,000 times stronger than chemotherapy. If this claim was true, those who drink their tea with lemon would've been protected from cancer.
And it's impossible to understand this story on Aravot.am, which is based on nutritionist Haykaz Sargsyan's press conference: does the nutritionist consider cancer a virus or the result of a bad diet?
And so, circulating in the Armenian media are claims that cancer is a parasitic fungus or a virus. Such claims already prove that the article is anti-scientific. Though some viruses (for example, the human papillomavirus) may contribute to cancer, cancer is the collective name for those illnesses that occur as a result of uncontrolled cell growth. When one has cancer, the old or damaged cells don't die, and new cells are created when they're not needed. It's these additional cells that can be continuously divided and cause tumors.
Depending on the complexity and type of cancer, treatment methods may completely treat the cancer or manage its growth. The most common methods of treating cancer are surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and more often a combination of these.
There is no evidence of treatment with lemon juice, carrots, and other foods. The precursor to these widespread false scientific claims was the fact that some foods have anti-cancer properties. Which only means that the right diet may reduce the likelihood of having cancer or contribute to the effectiveness of the right treatment.
But in the Armenian media, continuing to exist alongside interviews with doctors and informative articles on real treatment are the lemon and the chickpea treatments, from which it can be inferred that either journalists don't have a satisfactory level of awareness on the subject or the media outlet isn't displaying a responsible approach, publishing anything that will bring visitors to its site.
Informing the public about cancer is an important and responsible task, so journalists should take into account that in this case, not credible and anti-scientific articles may be dangerous for the the lives of readers living with cancer.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.