Science Questions

Can you catch cancer?

Sun, 23rd May 2010

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Transmissible Tumours

Question

asked:

Is cancer contagious? Could you catch it from someone?

Answer

Kat -   I get asked that a lot. As far as we know, the only cancers that are contagious are these Tasmanian Devil facial cancers and this dog venereal cancer. There’s no need to worry that you can catch cancer from another person with cancer.

Chris -   Well having said that Kat, what about organ transplants because obviously, if there is a cancer that we don't know about lurking inside the donor organ, there’s a possibility you could transmit that, couldn’t you?

Kat -   There is a possibility and also, interestingly, in patients who have had organ transplants, they're often on immunosuppressive drugs to stop their immune system attacking the cancer, and in fact, this can lead to an increase in certain types of cancer in a patient.  But you shouldn’t be worried if one of your relatives is affected by cancer.  You can't catch it off them so that’s important to point out.

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