Carcinogens: 4 that You May be Taking in Everyday!

Growing up in everyday USA, it was pre-determined that I would take in a number of carcinogens often, and not be aware of it. I had soda at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, for example. Smoking in restaurants and hotels was allowed for most of my childhood. Nitrites were a common occurrence in my family’s diet.

Most of us are aware of the heavy-hitting cancer-causing substances, like cigarettes, repeated sun exposure without SPF, and chemicals. But, while becoming an Oncology-Certified nurse, I was surprised to find that there are commonly used carcinogens in today’s Western culture; but are we recognizing them? Follow on for Carcinogens: 4 that You May be Taking in Everyday!

1. Alcohol

Most of us hate to hear yet another reason to avoid our beloved booze, but it turns out alcohol is almost as much of a heavy-hitting carcinogen as cigarettes!

It turns out, even moderate drinkers (no more than one drink per day) have an increased risk for developing cancer. Basically, the more routine your alcohol drinking becomes, the higher the risk of cancer development.

In particular, alcohol is associated with Head and Neck, Esophageal, Liver, Breast and Colorectal cancer. I take care of all of these diagnoses on a regular basis. However, I must say Head and Neck diagnoses are especially brutal, as they affect the patient’s ability to eat and swallow; thereby their quality of life plummets terribly.

2. Plastics

The US is finally coming around on decreasing its use of plastics (although mostly for ecological reasons). I was surprised to find that many plastics are carcinogenic. Most of us have heard of BPA. BPA is a chemical found in many plastic products such as food containers, dental sealants and the slick side of cashier receipts.

BPA and many other chemicals in plastics mimic estrogen activity; which throws off our hormone balance. This is especially significant in Breast Cancer, as it has important links to estrogen. If you must use plastics, it’s especially important to avoid heating them, as this has the potential to leech the carcinogenic chemicals into your food or drink. As a general rule of thumb, try not to reuse plastics, and if you do make sure they are marked BPA-free.

3. Red Meat

Here in America, we love our red meat. It’s estimated that Americans eat 112 pounds of red meat each year! The UK is doing better, with an estimated 57 pounds on average per person, per year.

Still, this is far more than the latest data from the Oncology field recommends. Studies have found that with increased red meat consumption comes increased incidence of colon cancer.

Of note, chicken has been found to have no effect on colon cancer diagnoses, while increased fish consumption appears to decrease the risk. If you are on the fence about taking on a plant-based diet, here is another nudge; it’s well-worth considering!

4. Parabens

While the UK is exceptionally good at regulating its cosmetic industry, the US has no such regulations on parabens. Parabens are chemicals found in cosmetics that, like BPA, mimic Estrogen. They are used as preservatives in beauty products, but can leech through our skin and disrupt the hormones in our body.

Again, this has special links to Breast Cancer. If you are looking to clean up your cosmetic cabinet, consider downloading the app “Think Dirty.” This fabulous resource allows you to look up, or scan, any beauty product to see exactly which ingredients it’s comprised of and any carcinogenicity it may have. It’s a great way to stay informed and stay in control of your cancer risk!

What carcinogens have you noticed in your environment? Are you exposed to more of the 4 listed above than you think is healthy? Let us know below, and join in the conversation on FacebookTwitter & Instagram!

Want to cultivate the right habits to counter cancer? Then check out Cancer: 4 Daily Habits that Patients Wished They Had Practiced.

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