This can cause cancer, that can cause cancer… it all gets hard to keep track of after a while. Even for us, sometimes. Although most of you are aware of the major cancer contributors, not everyone is aware of the subtle ways toxic chemicals sneak into our daily lives. So, our team at The Hearty Soul has help do it for you.
But First, What Is a Carcinogen?
In short, carcinogens are various substances and exposures which increase your likelihood of developing different cancers. Although cancer is a disease which largely affects and changes cells’ DNA, not all carcinogens do. Some carcinogens cause cells to divide at increased rates which, in turn, boosts the probability of DNA changes and cancer formation.
While some people are genetically (i.e., internally) predisposed to certain changes in DNA, carcinogenic exposure also occurs externally. For example:
- Workplace exposure (usually industrial)
- Household exposure (e.g., toxic cleaning products)
- Air pollution (e.g., land or air vehicles)
- Naturally occurring exposure (e.g., UV light, infectious agents)
- Medical exposure (e.g., radiation and chemotherapy or hormone treatments)
- Lifestyle habits (e.g., diets, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity)
9 Surprising Carcinogens You’re Exposed to Every Day
What scary is that so many of these sources of carcinogenic exposure seem harmless… Our hope is that your awareness grows and that you make healthy life choices that will protect you from cancer.
As outlined by the CDC, cigarette smoke contains a mix of 7,000+ toxic chemicals, 70 of which are known carcinogens. Even if you only smoke a few cigarettes a day, your risk of lung cancer grows and continues to compound until you stop. But, what if I don’t smoke?
That’s where many people thinking they get off, but secondhand smoke can actually affect a non-smoker in the same way it does a smoker. Forty percent of adults who don’t smoke are exposed to secondhand smoke. In fact, every year, secondhand smoke exposure kills over 7,000 people every year due to lung cancer.
2) Alcohol Consumption
In 1997, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared alcohol a known human carcinogen… Makes you wonder why it’s still enjoyed so excessively in America. Extensive research has been done and countless studies published that prove just how fatal alcohol consumption can be, especially when it comes to cancer.
Scientists have linked alcohol and numerous cancers, including:[4-10]
- Head and neck cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Liver cancer
- Breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
When you hear about aluminum exposure increasing cancer risk, it’s usually in reference to antiperspirant deodorants. There’s a body of scientists who are not convinced that aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants are truly a risk factor. However, other scientists believe you would be doing yourself a favor by ditching this hygiene product (and replacing it with a natural recipe).
According to the American Cancer Society, “research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells… [which] can promote the growth of both cancer and non-cancer breast cells.”[11,12]
This carcinogen sounds like something from another planet, but it’s right there under our feet. Although you cannot see, taste, nor smell it, radon is a naturally occurring gas you can find coming from dirt and rocks. Believe it or not, it causes upwards of about 20,000 cases of lung cancer in any given year.
In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 1 in every 15 U.S. homes has high radon levels and suggests you get it tested to make sure you and your family’s health is protected.
5) Hormone Therapy
This type of therapy is often used post-surgery for women battling hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. Hormone therapy is often continued for about five years and is used to help prevent the breast cancer from coming back. It doesn’t sound so bad in comparison to other conventional cancer treatments.
However, the drugs used in hormone therapy block hormone receptors. Medications such as Tamoxifen and Fulvestrant, over time, can increase your chances of developing uterine cancer.
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6) Ultraviolet Light (Sun Exposure)
Skin cancer is one of America’s most commonly diagnosed types of cancer and its position has steadily risen over the last three decades. As reported by the American Cancer Society, approximately “99,600 invasive skin cancers will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018, and more than 91,000 of these cases will be melanoma, the most serious and deadliest form of skin cancer.”
It seems that not many people take seriously enough, but exposure to any ultraviolet radiation can damage DNA in your skin. The short-term consequence is a sunburn but, over time, skin cancers like melanoma can develop.
7) Indoor Tanning
Similar to the factor above, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the WHO’s International Agency of Research on Cancer have declared indoor tanning as a known carcinogen – this includes sun lamps, tanning beds, and other similar products. According to the American Academy of Dermatology:
“Multiple studies [have] shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma… Using indoor tanning beds before age 35 can increase your risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 59 percent; the risk increases with each use.”
8) Grilled Meat and Fish
The National Cancer Institute has warned against cooking with certain high-temperature methods when cooking beef, pork, poultry, or fish. For example, pan-frying or open-flame grilling can create chemical reactions that produce cancer-chemicals (e.g., heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).
A study published in Cancer found that consumption of grilled or well-done meat actually increased the subjects’ risk of colorectal adenoma, which usually leads to colorectal cancer.
9) Medical Imagery
Sounds vague, right? Maybe a term like “x-ray” is more familiar. Did you know that x-rays are actually a form of (ionizing) radiation? It’s not the same high-dose radiation you’re exposed to in nuclear blasts, powerplants, or bombs. That said, radiation used during x-rays still have the potential to break down molecular bonds that can tweak DNA and up your cancer risk.
Although scientists acknowledge that they need to conduct more studies, research has linked x-ray exposure to leukemia, thyroid, lung, and breast cancer.
How many of those did you know were carcinogens?
We hope that with this newfound info you’re able to lower your overall exposure to carcinogens. It might seem challenging but little by little, you can lower your risk in a very practical way.
 Known and Probable Human Carcinogens. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html
 Lung Cancer. (2017, May 31). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/basic_info/risk_factors.htm
 Alcohol and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet
 IARC Working Group on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. Personal habits and indoor combustions. Volume 100 E. A review of human carcinogens. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks in Humans 2012;100(Pt E):373-472.
 Baan R, Straif K, Grosse Y, et al. Carcinogenicity of alcoholic beverages. Lancet Oncology 2007;8(4):292-293.
 Hashibe, M., Brennan, P., Chuang, S. C., Boccia, S., Castellsague, X., Chen, C., . . . Boffetta, P. (2009, February). Interaction between tobacco and alcohol use and the risk of head and neck cancer: Pooled analysis in the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19190158
 Grewal, P., & Viswanathen, V. A. (2012, November). Liver cancer and alcohol. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23101985
 Hamajima, N., Hirose, K., Tajima, K., Rohan, T., Calle, E. E., Heath, J. R., . . . Collaborative, C. A. (2002, November 18). Alcohol, tobacco and breast cancer–collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 53 epidemiological studies, including 58,515 women with breast cancer and 95,067 women without the disease. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12439712
 Allen, N. E., Beral, V., Casabonne, D., Kan, S. W., Reeves, G. K., Brown, A., . . . Million, C. O. (2009, March 04). Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19244173
 Fedirko, V., Tramacere, I., Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Scotti, L., Islami, F., . . . Jenab, M. (2011, September). Alcohol drinking and colorectal cancer risk: An overall and dose-response meta-analysis of published studies. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21307158
 Darbre, P. D. (2005, September). Aluminium, antiperspirants and breast cancer. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16045991
 Linhart, C., Talasz, H., Morandi, E. M., Exley, C., Lindner, H. H., Taucher, S., . . . Ulmer, H. (2017, July). Use of Underarm Cosmetic Products in Relation to Risk of Breast Cancer: A Case-Control Study. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5514401/
 Radon. (2018, February 01). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.epa.gov/radon
 Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/treatment/hormone-therapy-for-breast-cancer.html
 Just the Facts: Skin Cancer. (2018, February 09). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.acscan.org/policy-resources/just-facts-skin-cancer
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program. Report on carcinogens, 14th ed: Ultraviolet-radiation-related exposures. 2016. http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/roc14/
 Indoor tanning. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care
 Chemicals in Meat Cooked at High Temperatures and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
 Chow, W. H., Kulldorff, M., Denobile, J., Butler, J., Garcia-Closas, M., Weil, R., . . . Rothman, N. (1999, September 01). Well-done, Grilled Red Meat Increases the Risk of Colorectal Adenomas. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/59/17/4320
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