Cancer is a scary thing to think about. But, as with anything health-related, it's always a good idea to stay as informed as possible. If you know which habits could lead to cancer, for example, you can avoid them and up your chances of living a long and healthy life.
Of course, I'm not saying there's any one thing that causes cancer, or any one way to stay cancer-free. A healthy lifestyle certainly helps, with lots of sleep, low stress levels, and a healthy diet. But sometimes your risk for certain types of cancer has more to do with genetics. "Genetics accounts for about 20 percent of possible risk and lifestyle 80 percent," says Dr. Scott Schreiber, in and email to Bustle. If you have a family history of cancer, it's important to closely monitor the situation.
"Knowing your family history is very important when it comes to screening and prevention," says Shikha Jain, MD, from the Division of Hematology Oncology at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. "If you have a family history, your physician may recommend further screening tests, or starting screening earlier than the general population." While you can't control everything, you can take care of yourself. Read on for some weird things that could cause cancer, so you can keep your risk to a minimum.
1. Red Meats
Apologies to my carnivorous friends, but red meat is shaping up to be all sorts of unhealthy. (Bacon, for example, is linked to rectal cancer in the same alarming rates smoking is related to lung cancer.) And yet, no one's really sure why. "Researchers are still working on why there is an association between red meat and cancer," Schreiber says. "Cooking techniques, the meat itself ... artificial hormones, and what the cows are fed all play a part."
While there's nothing wrong with the occasional drink, some studies reveal a connection with alcohol and increased risk for seven different types of cancer. As Schreiber tells me, these include oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast cancers. If you still plan on drinking, Schreiber recommends limiting yourself to one to two drinks a week at the absolute max.
3. Not Enough Sun
We're all taught to fear the sun, but there are quite a few benefits to occasionally going outside SPF-free. "We make vitamin D from sun exposure and most of us are deficient," Schreiber says. "Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with increased risk of cancer." So go ahead and catch a few rays each day to help boost your levels.
4. Too Much Sun
As with most things, everything should be in moderation. While you shouldn't hide in the shadows, you also shouldn't make a habit of getting sun burned, either. "Whether you work outside or like to jog outside every day, the more time you spend in the sun, the higher your risk [of skin cancer], especially if you are doing these activities during the peak sun hours of the day," says board-certified dermatologistDr. Alan J. Parks. Using SPF 30 daily can reduce your risk of cancer by 40 to 50 percent.
5. Sitting For Hours And Hours
You may have heard that "sitting is the new smoking." This news sounds a tad dramatic, and yet studies have shown it's kinda true. "For women in particular, there is a 65 percent greater risk of of multiple myeloma in women who sit six plus hours a day," says Ergotron research manager Carrie Schmitz, in an email to Bustle. She recommends taking one to two minute breaks from sitting each hour, which can lower the risk factors of cancer.
6. Lack Of Exercise
In the same vein, a lack of daily exercise can increase your chances, too. "According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is estimated to be responsible for 21 to 25 percent of breast and colon cancers," Schmitz says. "One study found a 40 percent decrease in cancer mortality in people who were physically active compared to those who were sedentary."
7. Secondhand Smoke
We all know that smoking can increase your risk of cancer in the lungs, mouth, and pharynx — as well as pretty much everywhere else. But here's your friendly reminder that secondhand smoke can be harmful, too. As Jain tells me, this is all thanks to the tobacco. (Again, just a friendly reminder.)
While just having electronics in your life won't lead to cancer, keeping them all up in your business might. As certified nutritional and wellness counselor Melissa Eboli tells me, the radiation emitted from your phone or laptop can affect your health. Keeping your phone in a purse (tucked up by your boob) or a laptop on your lap (right by your uterus) for long periods of time is not a good idea, as it can lead to increased risk of cancer in these areas.
9. Toxic Cleaning Products
There's no denying most household cleaning products contain toxic cancer-causing ingredients. That's why, going forward, it may be a good idea to pay attention to what you're sprayin' all over your house. "Use products with ingredients that are recognizable in nature," Eboli suggests. "You can also fact check on sites like EWG (Environmental Working Group) to see what ingredients in daily products are considered OK to use."
10. Processed Foods
I love processed, shiny, bagged foods just as much as the next gal. And yet there's no denying they're some of the worst things you can eat. "Foods that are treated with preservatives and ... found in a can, a box, or prepared to last a long time may cause cancer," says S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologic surgeon and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles. "The preservative products and treatment of these foods with heat/radiation may alter their natural chemical makeup. This in turn may contribute to formation of products in our digestive system that cause DNA mutations and eventually cancer." Yikes.
OK, so don't freak out and throw away all your favorite beauty products. Do, however, be aware going forward which ones can affect your health. "As consumers, we should be aware of the ingredients in our skincare and personal care products that are potentially hazardous and may increase your risk of cancer," says board-certified ENT surgeon and medical expert Dr. Kalpana DePasquale. While it's difficult to find a direct correlation between an ingredient and cancer, ones to watch out for include: pthalates, paragons, lead, formaldehyde, PABA, 1,4-dioxane, and ethanolamine compounds.
Again, there's definitely no one thing that causes cancer. It is, however, always good to be aware of these things can negatively impact your health.
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