Is Cancer Contagious?

Cancer is not contagious, at least not in the same way that other diseases are contagious. Kissing, touching, and sharing utensils will not spread cancer. In fact, cancer cells cannot live in the body of another healthy persona, because they are destroyed by the healthy individual’s immune system. However, there are some things that play a role in the development of cancer that lead many people to mistakenly believe that it is contagious.

Rare Situations

An organ transplant received from an individual with cancer can result in the spread of cancer to the recipient. This is because the recipient takes medication to suppress the immune system in order to prevent the body’s rejection of the new organ. Organ donors are carefully screened to prevent this from happening.

It is also possible for some types of cancers to spread to the placenta and fetus if a pregnant mother has cancer, but this is also rare.

Viruses and Bacteria

Some viruses are linked to cancers. For example, the human papilloma viruses are linked to cancers in the penis, vagina, and cervix, and the Epstein-Barr virus is linked to nose and throat cancers. However, these viral infections alone do not lead to cancer, and there are other health factors involved.

Long-term infections with some types of bacteria can damage the inner layer of the stomach. This can increase the risk of cancer, but does not directly cause it.


The fact that families can often suffer from the same types of cancer can contribute to the thought that cancer is contagious. However, this occurs in families due to other factors, like the same genetics and exposure to the same things (like cigarette smoke).

What Actually Causes Cancer?

Cancer is caused by mutations in DNA. These mutilations can develop over time or be inherited. Sometimes, they seem to occur for no reason at all. Other times, they are caused by things like tobacco exposure and UV damage.

Often, cancer patients report feeling isolated and alone. Don’t let the misperception of cancer being contagious prevent you from visiting with someone suffering from cancer. They need you!

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