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Most-shared fake health stories of 2019: Cancer, ‘cures’ and vaccines

Fake news has been making headlines recently. It started a few years ago, before the 2016 presidential election, and is still going strong — especially on social media.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn’t contained to just politics. Tap or click here to see the top 10 fake news articles on Facebook in 2019. The scourge of fake news has even reached the medical field.

In 2019, there were tons of fake health stories circulating. Did you fall for any of them? Here are some of the most-shared stories of the year.

Why is fake news even a thing?

Fake news is meant to scare people and incite a strong emotional response, and that’s what makes it so easy to spread. Facebook has been one of the worst offenders by allowing stories that are known to be fake to still be passed around.

One way to cut down on the sharing of fake posts is to recognize them when you see them. Can you recognize fake news when you see it? Tap or click here and take this test to see if you can spot fake news.

As we said earlier, some of the fake news has turned its attention to the health field. To find out just how crazy things have gotten, NBC News put together a list of the most viral misinformation about health in 2019.

It turns out the most-shared stories included conspiracy theories between the medical community and governments. Many of the posts also try to convince people to stay away from common medical treatment for life-threatening diseases, and instead opt for unproven cures.

And you won’t believe just how viral articles like these went. The top 50 articles were shared more than 12 million times and have received tons of comments and reactions. Of course, most of this has been happening on Facebook.

Don’t fall for misinformation

One of the biggest concerns about fake medical news is the fact that so many people search for health information online. Whether someone has actually been diagnosed with a disease, or just feel like they’re coming down with something, a quick internet search is done by many.

It could be life-threatening if someone ignores doctor’s orders and follows advice from social media. Here are a few of the most-shared fake health stories from 2019.

According to NBC News, the most engaged-with article dealing with cancer this year had the headline, “Cancer industry not looking for a cure; they’re too busy making money.” The article had over 5 million engagements on the site “Natural News.”

The site in question is owned and operated by someone who sells dietary supplements and who goes by the pseudonym “The Health Ranger.” Natural News had almost 3 million Facebook followers until the site was banned this summer for using “misleading or inaccurate information.”

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Cancer was the most popular type of health misinformation article this year. Many of these articles pushed unproven cures that could put a reader’s life at risk.

Another popular topic was processed foods. There were lots of stories with clickbait headlines trying to scare readers away from eating processed foods. One of the most-shared articles had the headline, “Scientists Warn People to Stop Eating Instant Noodles Due to Cancer and Stroke Risks.”

That article also pushes “natural cures” that have zero evidence of working. Another article with nearly 1 million engagements had the headline, “Ginger is 10,000x more effective at killing cancer than chemo.”

Dates, garlic, thyme, limes, okra and several other herbs and vegetables were mentioned in 2019 as cures for asthma, cancer, diabetes and influenza. None of these natural supplements for medication have been proven to work.

Then there was all the the anti-vax propaganda. Most of the medical and scientific communities agree that vaccines are safe. That didn’t stop anti-vaccine warriors from posting fake claims that vaccines cause serious harm or even death. This has been a problem for quite a while now.

Misinformation is nothing new, but we need to be more vigilant when it comes to health-related news. And we can’t stress this enough: If you are feeling ill, don’t turn to the internet for medical advice. See a doctor ASAP and find out what’s really going on. Your life could depend upon it.

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