An official website of the United States government

#YALICares: Health Myths and Facts
January 18, 2018

We asked, you answered. Check out common public health myths submitted by YALI Network members and learn the facts!


Myth #1: Cancer is caused by a curse and is a disease of the west.

Fact: Cancer is caused by abnormal cell growth. It can occur in anyone regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Ten cancer facts from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Myth #2: Cancer is a death sentence and early screenings do not help.

Fact: Early cancer screenings greatly increase the chances for successful detection and treatment. Find more about the early detection of cancer from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Myth #3: Cervical cancer screenings damage the uterus and make women barren.

Fact: Cervical cancer itself – and not the preventative screenings – can cause women infertility. Early detection through screenings is very important. Find more about preventative screenings from the World Health Organization (WHO)


Myth: If you share utensils with someone who has epilepsy, you will get it too.

Fact: Epilepsy is not contagious. It is a chronic non-communicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages. Find more information about epilepsy from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Eye Care

Myth: Wearing eyeglasses destroys your vision and eyes.

Fact: Eyeglasses are external optical aids that provide assistance to people with blurred vision caused by refractive errors. See more information about eye health from Mayo Clinic Health System

General Health

Myth: You don’t need to use soap when you wash your hands.

Fact: Using soap to wash hands is more effective than using water alone because ingredients in soap lift dirt and bacteria from the skin. Find more about the 5 steps for handwashing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Myth #1: HIV is the same thing as AIDS.

Fact: AIDS is the most severe phase of the HIV infection, but antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps control the virus. ART can extend life spans of infected people and decrease the risk of transmitting HIV to others. Find more about how HIV is treated from HIV.gov

Myth #2: You can get HIV from hugging someone or being in the same room with someone who has it.

Fact: HIV is transmitted from person to person through an exchange of infected bodily fluids, such as sexual intercourse, birth, or using infected needles. Find more about preventing the transmission of HIV/AIDS from Avert AIDS

Myth #3: Only gay people can get HIV.

Fact: If HIV enters the bloodstream, it can affect anyone – regardless of sexual orientation. Find more about HIV transmission from Avert AIDS


Myth #1: Malaria is caused by prolonged exposure to the sun or by eating certain foods, like pears and mangoes.

Fact: Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites. It is transmitted to people through the bites of infected female mosquitoes. Find more information on malaria from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Myth #2: Insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) do not work and are harmful to humans.

Fact: When properly used, ITNs reduce the risk of malaria. They pose minimal risk to humans, and the insecticide repels mosquitoes. Find more about malaria prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Mental Health

Myth #1: Mental health illnesses are caused by witchcraft, are contagious, are a sign of weakness, and only affect the rich population.

Fact: A variety of genetic and environmental factors can cause mental health illnesses. They can affect anyone in society, regardless of socioeconomic status. Learn more about mental health illness symptoms and causes from the Mayo Clinic

Myth #2: Mental health illnesses cannot be effectively treated.

Fact: There are many types of mental illnesses that require different types of treatment. Medical professionals can help to control the illness and significantly reduce symptoms. Find more about mental health from the Mayo Clinic

Sickle Cell

Myth: Sickle cell disease is contagious and caused by a curse.

Fact: Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder. It is inherited when a child receives a sickle cell gene from each parent. Find more information about sickle cell disease from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Myth: Vaccines are dangerous.

Fact: Licensed vaccines are rigorously tested before they are administered to humans and are much less risky than the actual diseases. Eight questions and answers about vaccines from the World Health Organization (WHO)

Women’s Health

Myth #1: The menstrual cycle is a punishment toward women.

Fact: Menstruation is a natural occurrence. Hormones control menstrual cycles in all women of reproductive age. Find more about female reproductive health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Myth #2: Abnormal menstrual bleeding is a sign that your partner is cheating on you.

Fact: There are various reasons for abnormal menstrual bleeding, but a cheating partner is not one of them. A visit to a medical doctor can provide proper diagnosis. Find more about the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer from the American Cancer Society