December 10, 2019

Is Cancer Contagious?

Cancer is a common disease, with roughly two million new cases being diagnosed in the U.S. each year. The prevalence of the disease causes some people to wonder, “Is cancer contagious?” or “Are tumors contagious?”. The short answer to questions like these is: No, cancer is NOT contagious. There’s no evidence that even close contact can transmit cancer from one person to another.

Can Cancer Be Transmitted like Other Contagious Conditions?

Cancer is caused by damage to the DNA in cells, which enables them to multiply abnormally. So, can cancer be transmitted like viral or bacterial illnesses? No, it can’t. In other words, you can’t get cancer from:

● Kissing
● Having sex (protected or unprotected)
● Touching the skin of someone who has skin cancer
● Coming into contact with the blood of a cancer patient
● Inhaling air that someone with cancer has exhaled
● Ingesting saliva through shared food or beverages
● Using the same toilet seat as someone who has cancer

A healthy person’s immune system recognizes foreign cells (cancerous or otherwise) and destroys them.

Can Cancer Be Transmitted Through Transplants?

Regarding the question, “Can cancer be transmitted through transplants?”, the answer is that technically it can. However, the risk is extremely low. This only occurs in approximately two out of every 10,000 transplants. In the rare instances when cancer is transmitted through a transplant, there are two factors that make that possible. The first is that the recipient is on medication that suppresses their immune system so they don’t reject the new organ. The second is that they were already at risk of developing the disease, especially kidney cancer or skin cancer.

Can Cancer Be Transmitted Through Genes?

There are some types of cancer that are referred to as hereditary cancers. They’re called that because your cancer risk is higher if you inherit certain faulty genes from your parents, in particular what are called tumor suppressor genes and DNA repair genes. However, the answer to the question, “Can cancer be transmitted?” is still “no,” as you don’t get the disease from your parents, just an increased risk of developing the disease.

Can Cancer Be Transmitted Through Pregnancy?

Can cancer be transmitted from a mother to her unborn baby? The risk of this occurring is very low. Technically speaking, cancer can be spread to the placenta while a baby is in the womb, but researchers say this is extremely rare. And it’s actually rare for women to have cancer while pregnant, as it occurs in approximately one out of 1,000 pregnancies.

Cancer Care Resources from Baptist Health

If you or a loved one have cancer, visit the Baptist Health website to discover more cancer patient resources.

Learn More.