It must a great source of comfort to those suffering from any form of cancer that celebrities of Noel Edmonds’ calibre have a special insight into what not only causes the illness, but are also often first with the news of potential cures.
And I am, of course, being facetious; there can be nothing more tiresome for those living with cancer, as well as the professionals involved in research, treatment and patient care, to be faced with yet another star whose “expertise” is limited to, um, being on telly or making a few records.
Enter Noel Edmonds – previously best known for naff jumpers, Swap Shop, Mr Blobby and, latterly, being a proponent of “cosmic ordering”, which is sort of like ordering yourself some good luck on Amazon.
What Edmonds got himself this week was in hot water, thanks to an enthusiastic tweet extolling the virtues of a £2,300 EMP Pad machine, a box of tricks he later claimed on the ITV breakfast show This Morning had helped to “cure” him of prostate cancer.
Not only did the man from Crinkley Bottom appear to have somewhat nonchalantly unleashed a cure for cancer – the Holy Grail of medicine – on the world, but he also had some thoughts on what causes cancer in the first place. In his case, he said, it was a byproduct of stress. And in reply to a Twitter user – suffering from kidney cancer – who challenged Edmonds, the Deal or No Deal host suggested @VaunEarl might have brought it all on himself.
“Scientific fact,” declared Edmonds loftily. “Disease is caused by negative energy. Is it possible your ill health is caused by your negative attitude?”
In other words, cheer up, @VaunEarl. It might never happen. Which is hardly very helpful. Professor Jane Maher, a chief medical officer of Macmillan Cancer Support, says: “Cancer and its treatment can be a very scary experience, making some people feel helpless and too tired to be positive, but that does not mean they can’t also survive their disease.
“Some patients tell us that having a positive attitude helps them when coping but we also know that a positive attitude means different things to different people and there should be no pressure on anyone to feel or act in a certain way.”
Of course, Edmonds isn’t the only person to offer opinions on the causes of cancer. Let us consider the case of Sting, former Police frontman – who, spookily, Noel Edmonds introduced on stage for his turn at 1985’s Live Aid concert at Wembley.
Sting – real name Gordon Sumner – lost both his parents to cancer. Which is why his comments in a 2003 Guardian interview were somewhat astonishing: “I think cancer – I'm not an expert or a doctor – but I think cancer is the result of undigested dreams and forcing yourself to do something that is not distinctively you.”
Undigested dreams (presumably, in Sting’s case, those of blue turtles), negative energy… if sufferers are not being told by celebrities that they bring on cancer themselves, then stars are empathising with those with cancer, which can sometimes seem even worse.
Take Kim Kardashian, reality TV star. No claims to any secret scientific knowledge here, but in a 2012 interview with The Guardian (seemingly the paper of choice for any famous person wanting to make profound statements on the nature of illness) she spoke about a meeting she’d had with a young cancer sufferer.
“I spoke to a girl today who had cancer and we were talking about how this is such a hard thing for her, but it taught her a big lesson on who her friends are and so much about life,” gushed Kardashian. “She's 18. And I was like, that's how I feel.”
Yes, you read that right. Kim Kardashian knew exactly how she felt. Despite not, y’know, actually having a disease that could possibly end her life.
And if it’s not cod-spirituality or inappropriate sentiment, it’s out and out crazy, which the poster girl for the American neoconservative movement, Ann Coulter, can be relied upon to supply in bucketloads.
In the wake of the devastating 2011 nuclear reactor accident at Fukushima, Japan, there were fears that radioactive materials would waft their way towards the US. But don’t worry, Coulter told Fox News; that might actually be good for people, especially those suffering from cancer already.
While, of course, radiotherapy is indeed used to target some cancers, it’s a fairly exact science, and not a case of just taking a shower under some passing fallout, as Coulter seemed to suggest in a comment that was more aimed at needling the US nanny state than offering any real hope to the desperately ill.
“There is a growing body of evidence that radiation in excess of what the government says are the minimum amounts you should be exposed to are actually good for you and reduce cases of cancer,” said Coulter at the time.
Between Coulter and Edmonds, there are of course almost innumerable claims and counter-claims as to what might tackle cancer. Adrienne Betteley, interim head of health and social care at Macmillan Cancer Support, says: “Alternative treatments, like the EMP Pad, are used instead of conventional treatment but there’s currently not enough evidence to suggest that these can cure cancer or slow its growth.
“It’s really important that people with cancer are able to have conversations with trusted healthcare professionals before making a decision about the type of treatment so that they can make an informed decision and discuss any potential side effects.”
That’s trusted healthcare professionals, not bewhiskered TV presenters. Take advice from Noel Edmonds on cancer? No deal, thank you very much.
Anyone who wants to talk about cancer, treatments or support can contact Macmillan’s Support Line on 0808 808 0000.