20 Everyday Habits That Increase Your Cancer Risk
Red alert! You need to stop doing these right now.
So many new potential causes of cancer pop up every month that it’s hard to know what to believe and what to brush off. Just this week, a study in the journal Nature found asparagine — a chemical compound in asparagus — might even be linked to breast cancer. (Don’t worry, though — more tests still need to be done before you give up the veggie for good!)
Because cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and it’s being predicted 22 million new cases will come about within the next 20 years, it’s more important than ever to be aware of things you’re doing every day that can increase your risk, starting with these 20 common habits. To learn more about cancer, know that This Is How Likely You Are to Get Cancer in Your Lifetime.
Eating Charred Meat
When people eat meat, they tend to like it charred. The big issue is that cooking meat at high temps can form chemicals that cause changes in the DNA that could increase your risk of cancer, says the National Cancer Institute.
If you do cook meat, make sure it’s not getting over-done — or, ditch it altogether. A 12-year-long study published in the journal Nature that involved 61,566 participants found the incidence of cancer was much lower with vegetarians compared to meat-eaters. To learn firsthand the merits of vegetarianism, try Steal This Firefighter’s Vegetarian Diet for Staying Ripped.
This one is going to be super disappointing, just FYI. Having a drink here and there is totally fine, but when you’re downing alcohol on the daily — 1 or 2 drinks per day, to be exact — that’s when problems arise. According to the American Cancer Society, overdrinking has been linked to a higher risk of throat, liver, colon, and breast cancer. That doesn’t mean you have to skip hanging out with friends who drink: Just limit your intake by sipping on something non-alcoholic instead. And for more health advice, check out the 100 Best Anti-Aging Secrets.
Using a Plastic Water Bottle
If your go-to water bottle is plastic, you might want to switch to something that’s glass, steel, or ceramic. According to Breastcancer.org, some research suggests plastic beverage containers contain potentially harmful chemicals like BPA, a weak synthetic hormone that could mess with your body’s hormonal balance, potentially causing breast cancer. There are still mixed opinions on whether plastic bottles actually cause cancer or not, but steer clear just in case. And for more helpful health advice, here’s how to know if you’re someone allergic to… Daily sounds.
Sleeping With Your Phone Next to Your Head
You might like falling asleep to your favorite podcast, but get your phone as far away from your head as possible while you’re catching zzzs. In December, the California Department of Public Health came out with guidelines to minimize people’s exposure to the radiofrequency energy cell phones put out due to research on its link to brain cancer, among other issues. So put your phone in another room—it’s one of the 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better.
Sitting Around Too Much
Some days are super lazy, and others are go-go-go. Those times when you’re sitting around relaxing probably feel great; the only issue is too much sitting can put you at risk of cancer. In 2014, German scientists analyzed data from 43 studies and found two additional hours of sedentary behavior a day could put you at an 8 percent increased risk of colon cancer, 10 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer, and 6 percent increased risk of lung cancer.
Doing your laundry seems harmless enough, right? Well, not so much. According to the Environmental Working Group, some brand-name liquid laundry detergent contains 1,4-dioxane, a chemical that could potentially be cancerous. In past research, animals exposed to the chemical had higher rates of liver tumors than those who didn’t, so it’s something to be weary of. Maybe get the natural stuff instead. And for more ways to live smarter, bone up on the 20 Things Your Doctor Is Likely to Get Wrong.
If you haven’t ventured into natural deodorants yet, this fact will make you stock up immediately. Although the American Cancer Society says no clear link has been made between deodorant and breast cancer at this time, research has suggested the aluminum compounds in deodorant that keep you from getting sweaty could cause damage after being absorbed by the skin, changing the estrogen receptors and potentially leading to breast cancer.
Skipping Out on Flossing
Are you keeping up with your oral hygiene? Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash is essential to making your teeth happy — and if you skip out and don’t get them the attention they deserve, you could put yourself at risk of developing cancer. A January 2018 study found gum disease is associated with a 24 percent increase in both lung and colorectal cancer, meaning you need to start taking care of your mouth ASAP.
Sleeping With the TV On
Falling asleep to the sound of the TV might be the only way you can get yourself to pass out. Unfortunately, all that artificial light at night isn’t too great for your body. A 2010 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found it’s been linked to both breast and prostate cancer due to messing with your melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.
Using Scented Candles
There’s something so soothing about scented candles. They can relax you almost immediately in the moment but could do a whole lot of damage down the road. Unfortunately, scented candles are full of potentially dangerous chemicals like benzene and toluene and breathing them in regularly could increase your risk of cancer, says the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Making Microwave Popcorn
It’s quick, easy, and delicious — so what’s the problem with microwave popcorn? Well, not only can the chemical diacetyl — AKA a butter flavoring in the mix — lead to lung issues from breathing it in, but Dr. Oz said it can also lead to bladder cancer. It might take a little more effort to make your popcorn from scratch, but you’ll thank yourself later for taking the extra time.
Using Baby Powder
If you use baby powder often, this is going to make you want to toss it out for good immediately: A 2010 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found using the product — also called talcum powder — can increase the risk of endometrial cancer in women by 24 percent when used on the perineal area. Yeah, that’s a lot.
Using Makeup and Skincare That Contains Parabens
Parabens are sneaky little guys. And, they can also be dangerous. Research has shown the chemical compounds — which are used as preservatives in a countless number of makeup and skincare products — are easily absorbed through the skin and can cause a spike in the growth of breast cancer cells. Now with the natural beauty movement taking off, there’s no reason to put products on your body that have any sort of potentially harmful chemical.
Eating Processed Meat
Move over, hot dogs: Veggie dogs might be the only safe summer BBQ option when it comes to preventing cancer. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, processed meat has officially been classified as a carcinogen. In fact, eating just 1.8 ounces of processed meat a day can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. In addition, it can also cause pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Breathing in Pollution
Yep, even the simple act of breathing can increase your cancer risk. It’s been known for quite a while that air pollution can do some major harm, and according to the World Health Organization, the cancer-causing substances in the air caused 223,000 deaths from lung cancer in 2010 alone. In addition, it’s also been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer.
Not Wearing Sunscreen
Most people don’t think they don’t need to wear sunscreen unless they’re going to the beach. That’s completely false, though — and it’s leading to a whole lot of skin cancer cases. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, you should slather on SPF year-round, no matter the season or the weather, to decrease your risk. Remember: regularly wearing sunscreen is one of the 20 Best Ways to Have Your Best Skin.
Working the Night Shift
Recent reports estimate three million Americans now work the night shift. It might not seem like working when it’s dark out and sleeping when it’s light would do any major bodily harm, but a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal found the graveyard shift can increase the risk of breast cancer, most likely due to melatonin suppression — especially in those who have done so for a long time.
Filling up your car with gas is something most people do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, one common mistake could be increasing your cancer risk. Adding just a little bit more gas in after your nozzle clicks off might not seem like a big deal, but according to the EPA and President’s Cancer Panel, that extra fuel could mess with the pump’s vapor recovery system, potentially releasing cancer-causing chemicals like benzene in the air.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day keeps everything in your body working properly. One thing it also does it dilute harmful substances in the urine, potentially helping reduce the risk of bladder cancer due to flushing them through your system faster, says the Cleveland Clinic.
Skip the Dry Cleaner
Is getting freshly-cleaned clothes via the dry cleaner worth increasing your risk of cancer? Probably not. Reports from the EPA have found perchloroethylene or “perc” — a chemical used by the majority of dry cleaners in the U.S. — could cause leukemia, as well as liver and kidney cancers. Look for a business that doesn’t use harmful chemicals or skip out altogether. For more ways to prevent cancer, check out these 40 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer After 40.
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