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These Popular Things May Increase Cancer Risk, Studies Show

Are these common things putting you at risk for cancer? Read what one doctor has to say. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There's many lifestyle changes we can make that help avoid certain cancers, but there's so many different things that cause cancer that we don't think about most of the time. It's common knowledge that wearing sunscreen helps avoid skin cancer, or not smoking significantly reduces the risk of lung cancer, but there's also products and environmental factors that greatly increase the risk. Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies explains to Eat This, Not That! Health, popular things that boost our chances of getting cancer, along with facts about the disease. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Cancer Facts

patient speaking with doctor

Dr. Mitchell reminds us that, "Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or almost one in six deaths. The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Prostate cancer is also common in men. However, there are many different types of cancer, and each type can develop in other parts of the body. Cancer is a complex disease, and the exact cause of cancer is not always known. However, some risk factors may increase your risk of developing cancer. While you may not be able to avoid all of these risk factors, there are some lifestyle changes that you can make. While many factors can contribute to cancer risk, some of the most popular things may surprisingly increase cancer risk.  For example, processed meat and red meat are linked to increased cancer risk, but what about the items in your environment that you might not be aware of? As scary as this might sound, it is essential to remember that cancer is complex and that these factors alone do not necessarily mean you will develop cancer."


Exposure to Radon and Environmental Carcinogens

chemical plant near water

Radon is a radioactive gas you can't smell, feel or taste and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke. It's found mostly in homes, workplaces and schools. Dr. Mitchell says, "Fortunately, regulations have been implemented to reduce workplace exposure to known carcinogens. However, people can also take steps to limit their exposure to cancer-causing agents outside of work. For example, testing your basement for radon and doing radon remediation if levels are too high can help protect you and your family from this invisible, odorless gas." 


Chemicals in the Home

Clean up bathroom sink

"Certain chemicals, including benzene, beryllium, asbestos, vinyl chloride, and arsenic, are known human carcinogens, meaning they have been found to cause cancer in humans," says Dr. Mitchell. "Exposure to these chemicals outdoors, at home, and work may add to your chances of getting cancer. It is essential to be aware of the risks and take steps to avoid exposure when possible. If you must work with or be around these chemicals, follow all safety precautions and wear the appropriate protective gear. By being informed and taking precautions, you can help reduce your cancer risk."


Wood Dust

Doctor explaining lungs x-ray on computer screen to patient

According to Dr. Mitchell, "For those who spend a lot of time cutting wood or around wood dust, it's essential to pay attention to the risks. Wood dust is created when machines or tools are used to cut or shape wood. High amounts of wood dust are produced in sawmills and in the furniture-making, cabinet-making, and carpentry industries. Despite its dangers, wood dust is often seen as a harmless by-product of these activities. However, breathing in high levels of wood dust can lead to a range of health problems, including cancer. This is why it's essential for workers in these industries to take precautions to protect themselves from exposure to wood dust. In addition, employers should provide adequate ventilation and dust-control systems to minimize the risk of workers being exposed to harmful levels of wood dust. By raising awareness of the dangers of wood dust, we can help to protect ourselves and those around us."

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Abdominal Fat, Say Physicians



Cigarettes in ashtray.

Dr. Mitchell emphasizes, "Quitting smoking is another crucial step, as smoking is linked to lung cancer, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, and more.  Smoking is a habit that is hugely detrimental to your health and can further accelerate cancer risk when used in conjunction with other popular things that increase cancer." 

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Ultraviolet Radiation

Woman Receiving Radiation Therapy Treatments for Breast Cancer

"Limiting sun exposure is one of the best things to decrease cancer risk," states Dr. Mitchell. "Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in skin cells, leading to cancer. People with lighter skin are at higher risk for skin cancer because they have less melanin, which provides some protection from the sun's rays. However, everyone is at risk for cancer from sun exposure. The best way to protect yourself is to limit your time in the sun, wear protective clothing, and use sunscreen. Limiting sun exposure can be problematic, but it is worth decreasing your cancer risk."

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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