Johns Hopkins Cancer Email Hoax

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Here is something that has probably passed through your email box in the last few years. It's called the "Johns Hopkins Update". Here's how they start the email:


So you're hooked, right? It sounds great and apparently came from Johns Hopkins University, a reliable source for information. WRONG! It might surprise you to know that not everything that comes through your email is true!

Just like you have to do at the grocery store, don't believe the packaging! This email has been circulating for years and has gone around so much that Johns Hopkins University actually debunks all the points in the email one by one. It's great!

Here's what I suggest that you do when you get an email, or even word-of-mouth story on the most "recent" or "hidden" cancer cures. If it's an email, always check out Snopes to see if they have it listed. They are a great place to find out if the email is a known urban legend.

For cancer specific information, you can check out Quackwatch or Cancer Treatment Watch. They are a good place to find evidence based information regarding alternative cancer or health related treatments and "cures". They give you the facts and leave it up to you to make a decision.

The Johns Hopkins Cancer Update Hoax:

For information on the origin of the email, check out this article from Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins.

And for the full article from Johns Hopkins regarding this email, check out their response here:

Here are what I found to be the highlight:

Cancers Feed on Certain Foods

The premise is that cancer cells feed on certain foods, and if a person refrains from eating these foods, the cancer will die. According to our experts, a poor diet and obesity associated with a poor diet is a risk factor for the development of cancer.  However, there is no evidence that certain foods alter the environment of an existing cancer, at the cellular level, and cause it to either die or grow.

Eating less meat, while a good choice for cancer prevention, does not free up enzymes to attack cancer cells.

Moderation is key, says Platz. As part of a balanced diet, sugar, salt, milk, coffee, tea, meat, and chocolate--the foods the "Update" calls into question--are all safe choices, she says. A balanced nutritious diet, healthy weight, physical activity, and avoiding alcoholic drinks may prevent as many as 1/3 of all cancers. Platz recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and limiting red and processed meats, like hot dogs.

Several Johns Hopkins experts participated in the World Cancer Research Fund - American Institute for Cancer Research report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, published in November 2007, which is considered by cancer prevention experts to be an authoritative source of information on diet, physical activity and cancer. Their recommendations for cancer prevention and for good health in general are:

  1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
  2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
  3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fiber, or high in fat).
  4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
  5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
  6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
  7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
  8. Don't use supplements to protect against cancer.

Our experts recommend that people meet their nutritional needs through their food choices. While vitamin supplements can be helpful in people with nutritional deficiencies, evidence suggests that supplementation above what the body can use provides no added health benefit.


Although well intentioned, many people forward emails that they do not know are accurate. Before you hit the FORWARD button for any email, check your facts! And when you find out that something isn't true, reply all to whomever sent it to you and try to set the record straight.

Another strategy is to hit forward to anyone you would've forwarded it to and give them a heads up that an email hoax is going around, so that if they get it, they can stop the spread of misinformation. I think we could all benefit from a little less of that!

- Julie

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I recently received that email hoax... the language itself made me suspicious of its authenticity... so I ran a Google search and found your wonderful highlight of Johns Hopkins' debunkin'... thank you.

to add to some of the food tips, check out a nice and clean chart (jpeg image) highlighting the foods and its phytochemicals that may protect against cancer:

(source: Encyclopedia of Foods – A Guide to Healthy Nutrition... this entire 420-page eBook can be viewed for free:

Wow you would subscribe to the cancer industry? John's Hopkins used to be held in high esteem and yet it continues to defend barbaric treatments such as the shotgun approach of chemotherapy and radiation which are woeful at best. Have you really thought about the consequences of such barbarism putting lethal chemicals or radiation into your body and not expect that you're causing more harm than good? Much of what John's Hopkins and you support are the very problems we have today with so-called 'modern medicine'. The idea that you would endorse a thoroughly debunked mounthpiece for the pharmaceutical industry in 'Quackwatch' reveals your true nature and it's not one that espouses healthy living. The person running the organization, Stephen Barrett lost his medical license in 1993 and is repeatedly being sued for misleading the public on alternative health treatments. He's being sued as I write by Doctor's Data and they've even asked the court for witness protection against Barrett and his ilk due to the death and rape threats against their witness. Is that who you want to advocate?
Much of the supposed 'hoax' email has fact based information in treating cancer and general health naturally by working with improving the immune system. Treatments my friends received for latter stage prostate cancer were treated with Transurethral Hyperthermia treatments and are now cancer free. Those treatments have been around for years but are not allowed in America when they're so succesful. Why is that Julie? The FDA spends taxpayer money to fight natural treatments, raw foods and supplements and yet gives the public a myriad of new drugs for specific symptoms but with each comes pages of warnings and side effects. People contninually die from FDA approved drugs that our bodies struggle with to tolerate and yet there's more focus upon natural foods that our bodies can metabolize properly with little or no complications. You call yourself a cancer dietician; I shudder at the thought of your health recommendations.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN published on March 21, 2011 9:03 AM.

Best Packaged Food Award from Prevention was the previous entry in this blog.

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