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Article makes false claims about mRNA vaccines and cancer

March 11, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: A study by scientists at Sloan Kettering discovered Messenger RNA inactivates tumor suppressing proteins, meaning that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines can cause cancer. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The 2018 study has no relevance to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center confirmed the claim is false and misrepresents the findings of the study. 

THE FACTS: An article in Natural News, which is known for circulating false information about vaccines, is spreading the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines could cause cancer. 

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The claim that vaccines contain cancer causing ingredients has long been pushed by vaccine opponents. The story misrepresents a 2018 study to make the false assertion that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are “cancer-driving inoculations that, once the series is complete, will cause cancer tumors in the vaccinated masses who have all rushed out to get the jab out of fear and propaganda influence.”

The false information was picked up by anti-vaccine websites and shared on Facebook and Reddit. 

“Looks like the “vaccine” is going to give people cancer according to Scientists at Sloan Kettering,” one Reddit user wrote when sharing the article.

But the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which conducted the 2018 study, said there is no truth to the claim. “This article circulating is categorically false, misrepresents the findings of our study and draws incorrect conclusions about vaccine risks,” the institute said in a statement.

According to the institute, the 2018 study found that changes in certain mRNA molecules can inactivate tumor-suppressing proteins and thereby promote cancer -- but there is no connection to the mRNA used in COVID-19 vaccines. 

“It’s important to note that mRNAs are a normal component of all cells and the specific ones discussed here are not involved in mRNA-based vaccines, like the one developed against SARS-CoV-2,” the institute’s statement said. 

Natural News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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MRNA vaccines work by using a piece of genetic code from the spike protein of the coronavirus to train the immune system to generate a response. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines rely on mRNA. 

While the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines rely on new technology, mRNA vaccines have been tested on humans before for other infectious diseases like Zika. The mRNA technology has been available for years. Despite what the claims in the article, medical experts say mRNA from vaccines cannot cause cancer because it lasts in the body for only a brief period of time. 

MRNA rapidly inactivates, which is why it needs to be kept at cold temperatures, said Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious diseases specialist at Emory University. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.


Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536