Causes of Cancer are All Around Us

In the Sun, Our Food and Perhaps Our Water!

It may be my age group, but it seems as though a significant number of the people I know either have cancer, or have had it in the past ten years.  Although I realize that certain cancers, such as breast cancer, have a genetic component, I also worry that there may be some environmental triggers that can cause it.  For my own peace of mind, I have spent some time researching ways to reduce my chances of developing this terrible disease, and would like to share what I have learned with those of you who may have similar concerns.


Among the causes are smoking (of course), obesity, pesticides, some sexually transmitted viruses and even excessive exposure to the sun.


Spending time outside is fun, but don't forget the sunscreen!




First, we all know that we shouldn't smoke.  The fact that smoking causes cancer has been pounded into us over the past two or three decades.  However, it is also important to avoid second-hand smoke.  Dana Reeves, the wife of Christopher Reeves, died of lung cancer even though she was a non-smoker.  Many people have theorized that she may have been exposed to carcinogens, or cancer-causing substances, when she worked as a singer in nightclubs before getting married.  Although we cannot always avoid inhaling a bit of cigarette smoke, we should make an effort to avoid spending long periods of time in an enclosed room or automobile with smokers, if we hope to reduce our chances of developing lung cancer.  Smoking is also a risk factor for cancers affecting the mouth, throat, esophagus and similar areas.


There are many products available to help you stop smoking.  A wide variety of smoking cessation products are available from


Obesity and Cancer


Another major concern, according to the American Cancer Society, is obesity.  I know that I am about 20 pounds overweight, so that is an area of concern to me … not just because of cancer, but heart disease and other ailments, too  .Obesity is considered a breast cancer risk, as well as a risk factor in other types of this disease.  The cancer of many other organs may also be linked to obesity.


Alcohol and Cancer


Alcohol can cause liver cancer, as well as malignant tumors in other organs.  There have been many news stories about how consuming small amounts of red wine may be good for the heart, so some people assume that alcohol is not a problem.  However, the key to this benefit is the word "small."  Frequent consumption of large amounts of alcohol can lead to cancer, as well as many other health problems!


Suntans and Cancer


Sun damage can cause skin cancer.  Many scientists believe that tanning booths are another risk factor, especially for young teens.  Although a few minutes of sun on our skin, a couple of times a week, can provide our bodies with essential Vitamin D, more than that can lead to skin cancer.  Never allow your unprotected skin to be exposed to the sun for more than a few minutes unless your generously slather on a high quality sun screen.


Sexually Transmitted Viruses


Sexual activity with a variety of partners can cause the infections that are known to lead to cervical cancer. The more sexual partners a woman has had in her lifetime, the greater the chance is that she will develop one of these cancer causing infections, for the simple reason that she has a greater chance of being exposed to a dangerous virus.


Risk Factors in Our Food and Water


Even our food and water can be a risk.   If you want to avoid exposure to the chemicals and medications that are beginning to permeate our water supply, drink filtered water.  You can use a home filtration system or buy filtered water.  Other ways to reduce your exposure to carcinogens are to avoid processed lunch meats that contain nitrates, and to not grill your meat until it is charred on the outside.   To reduce your exposure to other possible food sources of carcinogens, some researchers recommend eating free-range meat that does not contain growth hormones or antibiotics.


Pesticides and Cancer


In addition, avoid exposure to pesticides.  Wear rubber gloves and a face mask if you apply a pesticide around your home.  Use pesticides sparingly.  Buy organic fruits and vegetables, when possible.  Wash your produce thoroughly.  Some people recommend using apple cider vinegar and water as a way to clean your produce.  Others suggest that you peel your fruit, or remove the outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage.  However you choose to handle this, anything you can do to reduce your exposure to cancer causing chemicals in your personal environment seems like a wise choice.


Plastics and Cancer


Be aware that many researchers have become concerned about the BPA and phthalates in certain plastics.  It is possible to buy plastic containers that do not contain these chemicals.  However, it will require you to carefully read labels.  Phthalates were recently mentioned on the CBS television show "60 minutes" as being especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.  Watch for labels that say the plastic is BPA or phthalate free.  When possible, use glass or stainless steel containers, instead of plastic.


Other Possible Cancer Links


Finally, the possible link between cell phones and brain cancer has been vague.  Although it may be an unnecessary precaution, it is probably best to use a wireless earpiece when talking on the cell phone for more than a few minutes.  There have also been a few recent reports by women who feel that their breast cancer may have been triggered by the radiation from their cell phones.  These women were all long distance runners who would tuck their cell phones into their sports bras while running.  Later, they developed breast tumors in the same area where they kept their phones.  Although there has not been a scientific link, it is probably a smart idea to keep our cell phones away from our skin for prolonged periods of time.


Although there may be other health and environmental causes of lung, skin, breast, liver, cancer, and brain cancer or other forms of this disease, I choose to try to avoid any suspected causes of cancer when I can.  We can't do anything about the genetic tendencies we may have inherited.  However, whenever possible, we should avoid the triggers that could cause our genetic tendencies to go into action.  I hope that in the future, I'll have fewer friends who suffer from this frightening disease and, perhaps, avoid it myself!


If you are interested in reducing your chances of getting cancer, you may also want to read:


Products to Help You Quit Smoking

Danger from Light Cigarettes

The Great American Smokeout

Safeguarding and Disposing of Medications

Teach Your Teen about HIV and AIDS

What To Do When Someone's Drinking Bothers You



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