How The Environment May Impact Your Cancer Risk

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1,685,210 new cancer diagnoses are expected by the end of 2016. Also, approximately 595,690 deaths are expected by the same time. With these numbers, it is understandable to have concerns over one’s health and future. As such, being aware of the risk factors associated with cancers can help you take the necessary steps to safeguard your health and to help protect your future. Some of these risk factors come from our surrounding environment.

What You Should Know About Environmental Risk Factors

One’s environment is the surroundings or conditions in which a person lives or operates. In this environment, there may be dangerous substances or situations present that could increase a person’s cancer risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI): “Cancer is caused by changes to certain genes that alter the way our cells function. Some of these genetic changes occur naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division. But others are the result of environmental exposures that damage DNA.”

As indicated above, our very DNA can be damaged by harmful environmental conditions. This environment, unfortunately, is not so easily controlled. Changing one’s environment would require relocating to a completely different area, which is not an easy task, and this isn’t even a consideration if the person isn’t even aware that they are being exposed to harmful substances, or, carcinogens, as harmful substances that may cause cancer are known.

Known Carcinogens

When carcinogens are in the water, food, air, or at the workplace, they are more difficult to avoid. In the U.S., regulations exist to reduce (but, unfortunately, not eliminate) carcinogen exposure in the workplace, and continuing research is conducted to analyze the presence of carcinogens near neighborhoods and schools. Government agencies are aware of several carcinogenic substances, including the following:

Aristolochic Acids
Coal Tar and Coal-Tar Pitch
Coke-Oven Emissions
Crystalline Silica (respirable size)
Ethylene Oxide
Hexavalent Chromium Compounds
Indoor Emissions from the Household Combustion of Coal
Mineral Oils: Untreated and Mildly Treated
Nickel Compounds
Secondhand Tobacco Smoke (Environmental Tobacco Smoke)
Strong Inorganic Acid Mists Containing Sulfuric Acid
Vinyl Chloride
Wood Dust
For more detailed information about each of these substances, you can visit the Cancer Prevention page of the National Cancer Institute website.

Carcinogen Exposure Is Just One Piece Of The Puzzle

It is important to understand that many other factors influence whether a person exposed to a carcinogen will actually develop cancer, including the duration and amount of the exposure as well as the person’s genetic background.

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