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These Everyday Activities Proven to Cause Cancer, Say Experts

Expert warns these five things can cause cancer. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There's more than 100 types of cancers and according to the National Cancer Institute, "In 2022, roughly 1.9 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States." There's no single cause of cancer, but factors like genetics, environmental and health habits play a role. "Cancers are among the top three leading causes of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of death globally. Many cancers can thankfully be detected earlier and several types can be prevented early by making changes to everyday routines and lifestyle behaviors,"  Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University tells us. While cancer can affect anyone at any age, there are certain choices and behaviors that increase the chance. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Smoking and Alcohol Use

stop smoking

Dr. Khubchandani shares, "More than a tenth of the US adults smoke currently and more than a billion people around the world are regular smokers. Smoking is related to many health problems (e.g., heart disease), but specially linked with a wide variety of cancer types (e.g. lung, stomach, kidney, liver, colon, cervix, etc.). Reducing the frequency and dosage of tobacco smoking or quitting all together can have a major impact on reducing the risk of these cancers. Similarly, avoiding passive smoking or secondhand smoke can substantially reduce the risk of cancers. A constant debate also surrounds the health benefits of certain types and doses of alcohol consumption and how much is good for health, but long term and excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to a variety of cancers (e.g., liver, breast, colon, mouth, etc.)"



Woman Receiving Radiation Therapy Treatments for Breast Cancer

Dr. Khubchandani states, "Ultraviolet or ionizing radiation are very common around people. These radiations damage our cells and DNA causing cells to multiply abnormally which is what cancer is. These radiations are found in sunlight, and both natural (e.g., from earth, increasing radon exposure related to lung cancer) or man-made sources (e.g., medical diagnostic procedures like CT scans related to head and neck cancers). Tanning beds are another source of such damage to human body cells specifically in case of skin cancers (similar to excessive sun exposure). People should remain mindful about these as they are fairly common exposures, preventable causes of cancer, but often missed opportunity for prevention."


Meat Consumption

slabs of different cuts of red meat on wooden cutting board

"Not all types of meat are dangerous or related to cancers," Dr. Khubchandani emphasizes. "It depends on the meat type, additives, and how they are cooked. For example, certain toxic chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that damage our cellular multiplication mechanisms are produced when muscle meat is cooked at very high temperatures (e.g., pan frying or grilling directly over flames). Limiting the consumption of red and processed (including smoked) meats may add other health benefits as well beyond the probable role in reducing cancer occurrence (e.g., heart disease)."


Lack of Fruit and Vegetable Consumption


People who don't eat many fruits and veggies are at greater risk for cancer. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that only 1 in every 10 adults get the proper amount. Dr. Khubchandani says, "One would ask what to replace meat with? Fruits and vegetables offer a very healthy alternative to various types of unhealthy meat diets (e.g., smoked and charred). Fruit and vegetable consumption is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and a variety of health problems. Individuals with higher levels of consumption of fruits and vegetables may have a substantially lower risk of lung, head and neck, oral, esophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancer risk. There are numerous recommendations for how much fruit and vegetables people should consume, but one should aim for five servings for a variety of health benefits including reduction in risk of cancer or the more, the better."


Not Being Mindful of Body Weight and Not Exercising

A woman squeeze her tummy

Dr. Khubchandani reminds us, "The benefits of maintaining healthy body weight and exercising regularly are well known. For many health problems, the effects and benefits of exercise are often quicker (e.g., improved mood, sleep quality, overall fitness, blood cholesterol and sugar reduction, reduced risk of heart disease, etc.). Regarding cancers, one has to make a sustained and long-term commitment to maintain healthy weight and use exercise as a daily medicine to be used for a lifetime. An International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Working Group shared a report (i.e., Body Fatness and Cancer) where they concluded that higher body fat poses a risk for a wide variety of cancers (e.g. stomach, liver, kidney, colon, breast, thyroid, other reproductive or gastrointestinal organs, etc.). One should try and get recommended levels of physical activity to ensure reduction in externally visible fat and internal visceral fat accumulation (e.g., by burning calories and blood sugar) that will eventually help reduce the risk of cancer by controlling blood sugar, cholesterol, inflammation, and improving cellular and biochemical climate of the body."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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