People have fervently been claiming that the COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer, but is there any basis for this claim? Let's check the evidence to find out for ourselves.
Firstly, I want to point out that a lot of the information for this article came from a blog called Respectful Insolence, run by David Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS who is a Professor of Surgery and Oncology at Wayne State University School of Medicine, as well as a surgical oncologist. So check out his post if you want far more information on this topic!
Also, check out this article by Science Magazine by chemist and blogger Derek Lowe, as well as the video at the bottom for more information about the flaws of the study specifically.
In short, the claim is: "Vaccines cause cancer!" but a longer definition is in order.
It is claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine targeting the spike protein of the virus causes damage to a cell's ability to repair its DNA. This damage is said to be done by preventing the proteins BRCA1 and 53BP1 from getting to the site and limiting DNA repair.
Since mutations of the BRCA1 protein can give someone a significantly increased lifetime risk of certain cancers, like ovarian and breast cancer, this blocking is said to increase cancer risks. Thus, the claim is that COVID-19 vaccines that target the spike protein ultimately result in a higher risk of cancer.
This is not a claim based on what the facts say, but why are people claiming this? What is their source, and what does the evidence claim?
The Study and Why it is Not Reliable
First of all, no one study is able to prove or disprove something, especially when it comes to something as complex as biology. Science works by assessing many well-researched points of data, many decently done studies, and determining based on those what is most likely to be right. So waving around a single study will never be proof of anything. In fact, in science, proof and prove aren't scientific terms or a goal.
The study in question, titled "SARS–CoV–2 Spike Impairs DNA Damage Repair and Inhibits V(D)J Recombination In Vitro," is an in vitro study done by two men in Sweden. For those who may be unacquainted with the term "in vitro," it means the study was done outside of a living being. In other words, a petri dish. While these studies may be useful, they are not themselves good enough studies to base a claim on.
Not that this stopped legions of antivaxxers from claiming that the vaccine is bad based on this one poorly done study. It's like that highly debunked and discredited researcher Andrew Wakefield's study on Autism all over again!
For more information on all of the flaws of the study, check out Respectful Insolence.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause cancer?
One part of the study states:
"Mechanistically, we found that the spike protein localizes in the nucleus and inhibits DNA damage repair by impeding key DNA repair protein BRCA1 and 53BP1 recruitment to the damage site."
The idea that the spike protein can harm the DNA repair of cells should be more of a reason to get the vaccine, not less of one. Because if the issue is with the spike protein of the COVID-19 virus (which is what the vaccines are based on), then getting the vaccine will allow less of this virus to replicate throughout the body.
If any tumors were to spring forth as a result of vaccination, they would have to be relegated to the injection site, as that is where the vaccine is localized to as the body learns to fight them off. The mRNA Covid vaccines do just this. They target the skeletal muscle cells, which do not replicate and ergo have little to no chance of producing tumors. And that is assuming that this study is 100% accurate in its conclusion.
It is also important to understand that there is no evidence showing an increase in cancer cases or deaths as a result of vaccination or even infection, as shown by the American Cancer Society:
Even if there is a small risk of cancer from the vaccine specifically, and there is no evidence to prove there is, it would still make sense to get the vaccine. First of all, I have already shown that the risk of harm as a result of the three COVID-19 vaccines on the market is incredibly low.
I have also shown that the benefit of getting the vaccine far exceeds the risk of catching COVID-19. This includes the high risk of death, scarred lung tissue, long-COVID symptoms which can last for months or years, and the risk of passing the virus to others. So even if we run with the idea that any of the three COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer, getting the vaccine would still be the safer option to take.
On top of this, it is important to note that cells do not have one single way to repair DNA. There are various ways in which a cell will repair itself, so one mechanism in one area not functioning as planned would not automatically cause significant amounts of trouble. To put it all in far better terms, let's check out a great piece written by drug discovery chemist and blogger Derek Lowe:
"even if this mechanism is operating after vaccination, it doesn’t shut down your double-strand repair forever. Everything comes back. The biggest reason not to worry is the T-cell response mentioned above: the cells that are producing lots of Spike protein after vaccination are the ones that are going to be killed off once the T cells become sensitized to them.
Now, I realize that a lot of people are worried about Spike protein circulating around through the body, but remember: the experiments in this paper, even if you’re worried about them, were done in cells that were specifically engineered in their DNA to produce Spike protein constantly - this is a different mechanism than the mRNA vaccinations, which use RNA that breaks down in time. There is no evidence (and no particular reason to believe) that circulating Spike protein after vaccination, such as it is, gets taken up into other cell types and then taken into their nuclei, in sufficient quantity to have any noticeable effects at all. That’s a lot of hurdles to clear."
So there is nothing to be worried about when it comes to the Swedish paper. Or, in the words of Derek Lowe: "So no, *if* this current paper's conclusions are correct, and *if* this NHEJ inhibition via the Spike protein really is operating for a time after someone has been vaccinated - both of these need further work, for sure - I still don't see this as a cancer risk."
So get vaccinated. It will help you to not get sick, reduce your risk of long-COVID, symptomatic COVID, and death. It also will not increase your risk of cancer, and certainly not to a level worthy of concern compared to the alternative of catching COVID.
Learn more about how the study is flawed and why you should not worry about the paper's conclusions by watching the video below! It is a video by Dr. Susan Oliver, who has a Ph.D. in nanomedicine.