7 Common Habits That Are Linked To Cancer In Women But Not In Men
Cancer does not discriminate on the basis of gender. According to the National Cancer Institute, it's estimated that 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in a year and the disease can affect everyone differently. If you want to assess your risk, there are many factors to consider, but according to an oncologist, there are key differences between habits that can increase the likelihood of a diagnosis in men and women.
"The current lifetime risks of developing cancer are one in two for men, and one in three for women," oncologist Dr. Jonathan Stegall, MD, tells Bustle. "Interestingly, women are more likely than men to survive a cancer diagnosis, and this is true even when comparing cancers that both men and women get, such as colon and lung."
Although he says it's isn't perfectly clear as to why these differences exist, one theory is that women might lead healthier lifestyles than men. According to Dr. Stegall, men tend to drink more alcohol, eat less healthy, and are less active than women overall.
There are many factors that go into someone's risk of developing cancer, but certain habits can play role. "We have a lot of evidence showing that cancer risk is significantly increased in people who eat highly processed, high sugar, high fat diets," he says. The risk of getting cancer is also significantly increased in those who lead sedentary lives, smoke, and drink to excess. Significant stress and anxiety can also increase one's risk, he says.
In short, your habits matter. So here are some common habits that are linked to cancer in women more than men, according to research.
1. Drinking From Plastic Bottles
Research has found that exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) can increase the risk of hormone-related cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. BPA is a common product that can be found in plastic water bottles and containers. According to Dr. Stegall, BPA is a xenoestrogen which is a chemical compound that can imitate estrogen. Since its makeup is close enough to estrogen, it can disrupt hormonal balance in the body and lead to the initiation of cancer formation. Although researchers can't really say for certain that BPA exposure causes cancer, a 2014 University of Texas Arlington study found a link between BPA and breast cancer tumor growth.
2. Sprinkling Baby Powder Near Your Genitals
Some women will use baby powder around the vagina, but one of the major concerns in doing so is the link between talc, which is a mineral made up of elements like magnesium, silicon, and oxygen, and cancer. According to Dr. Stegall, baby powder (talcum powder) has been shown to increase risk of endometrial cancer in women. Researchers theorize that perineal talc use will somehow cause particles from the powder to travel through the vagina and into the ovaries, causing inflammation. While the American Cancer Society recognizes the possible link between talc and ovarian cancer, they say that findings have been mixed. If there is an increase, it's likely to be "very small." In other words, more research needs to be done.
3. Using Scented Candles
Exposure to toxic substances in your environment can lead to cancer in some way. For instance, scented candles may contain benzene and toluene, which Dr. Stegall says are "known human carcinogens per the Environmental Protection Agency." According to the American Cancer Society, carcinogens may not change your DNA and cause cancer directly. But high levels of exposure over a long period of time can increase an individual's chances. While lighting a scented candle every once and a while likely won't hurt you, it's something to keep in mind.
4. Using Products Full Of Parabens
Parabens that are found in many everyday products such as makeup, soaps, lotions, and cleaning products are also suspected carcinogens. The problem with parabens is that these chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and affect the body that way. Studies have found that parabens have "weak estrogen-like properties." Too much exposure to estrogen is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, exposure to parabens is super common. In fact, a majority of people in the United States have been found to have some form of parabens in their urine. Again, researchers can't say that exposure to parabens directly causes cancer. But there are known links to it, and it's something to be mindful of when buying personal care products.
5. Coping With Stress In Unhealthy Ways
"There have been studies showing that women who have significant stress in their lives, such as a traumatic life event, are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer," Dr. Stegall says. According to the National Cancer Institute, some studies have found links between "psychological factors" like stress and an increased risk of developing cancer. But results are mixed. For instance, a 2018 study published in the journal Clujul Medical reviewed literature from 1966 to 2016 to see the relationship between stress and breast cancer. Although they found a "possible" association between the two, it's difficult to say for sure. Some possible reasons as to why stress is linked to cancer include the development of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, and consuming alcohol during stressful life events. So it may not be stress that causes cancer. But stress can trigger unhealthy coping habits that can possibly lead to it.
6. Being A Night Owl
A 2018 study presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Glasgow found that women who consider themselves evening people are more likely to develop cancer than those who consider themselves morning people. Researchers ran a study looking at over 220,000 women to find any possible links between being a morning or night person and breast cancer. They found that morning people were less likely to develop it by as much as 48 percent. Interestingly enough, women who reported to sleeping more than the average seven to eight hours of sleep also had a slightly increased risk of breast cancer. This study only found possible links, so more research needs to be done in order to see how and why sleep can affect your risk.
7. Working The Night Shift
A 2018 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that women who work night shifts are 19 percent more likely to develop cancer than those who work more regular hours. Researchers found a positive relationship between long-term night shift work and an increase risk of developing 11 different types of cancer including breast, digestive system, and skin cancer. Furthermore, for every five years of night work, the risk increased by about three percent. Again, more research needs to be done to figure out why. However, the authors of the study theorize that nurses in particular are more likely to undergo cancer screening because they work in the medical field, which can affect the statistics.
While it's important to remember that engaging in these habits won't guarantee a diagnosis, being familiar with the things that can possibly lead to cancer, and alternate habits you can develop instead, can help you stay on top of your health.