Unexpected Things That Cause Cancer

Approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and about half is accounted for by genetics. It is suggested that the rest is environmental exposure and socioeconomic factors that play a role. Eleven of those unexpected environmental exposures are:


  • A 2017 study published in the journal Cancer found that in the U.S., the counties with the poorest quality of air, water, land built environment and sociodemographic factors increased incidence of cancer. Minority neighborhoods also face a higher risk of cancer due to the air pollution.
  • Those scented candles and air fresheners we all love so much actually have levels of volatile organic chemicals in them. These were measured and found in six houses in York and England. Limonene, a synthetic chemical used to create citrus smells, was the number one culprit. Reduce your use of scented products containing limonene, and therefore formaldehyde exposure.
  • Danish researchers published a study in 2016 linking increased alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk, but the same study found a lower risk of heart disease in the women who drank more. Alcohol also poses negative effects to head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer and colorectal cancer.
  • One I haven’t heard of before is sawdust, classified wood dusts, as human carcinogens. In the study furniture workers exposed to wood dust were more likely to develop a form of nasal cancer called adenocarcinoma.
  • Food isn’t so much the risk but the packaging may play a role. All those fast food packaging like wrappers and boxes contain perfluorinated chemicals that are linked to everything from cancer and developmental issues to reproductive problems, impaired immune function and other health effects.
  • Watch those sunscreens because overusing the wrong type possesses its own risks. Benzophenone-3 is a common ingredient in sunscreen that can trigger DNA damage and cancer growth.
  • Researchers at Moores Cancer Center at the University of California in San Diego found that increasing levels of vitamin D could prevent about 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer worldwide. Get out there and soak up the sun for your daily dose of vitamin D.
  • Viruses and bacteria pose serious short-term risks, but some can also pose long-term health effects and are linked to cancer through a number of studies. Avoid that “kissing disease”,more commonly known as mononucleosis.
  • Nearly 15% of Americans work the night shift, which studies are showing the late-night work may increase cancer risk in some people as it interferes with the body’s natural circadian rhythm.
  • Avoid that fried food and acrylamide, a chemical created in starchy foods, when they’re cooked at higher temperatures. Avoid those burnt foods, as Fahrenheit seems to trigger acrylamide formation. Boiling and microwaving are less likely to.
  • The University of Regensburg, Germany published a 2014 analysis in the Journal of National Cancer Institute that assessed the correlation between TV viewing time, recreational sitting time, occupational sitting time and total sitting time as it related to cancer risk. The more sedentary participants faced a higher risk of colon, endometrial and lung cancer. The recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for adults.


Hopefully the 11 unexpected things listed above will give us all food for thought on working to help allay our risk of cancer.

Dr Fredda Branyon