Radiation and Environmental Hazards
Avoid UV RadiationSkin cancer is the most common of all cancers, and it can be disfiguring or fatal if not caught and treated early. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
Most often, skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunshine or tanning beds. The UV radiation damages skin cell DNA and triggers mutations, causing the skin cells to form malignant tumors. Types of skin cancer include actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, dysplastic nevi, melanoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. READ MORE
You can prevent skin cancer. Protect yourself from UV radiation, especially if you have a fair complexion:
- Avoid peak radiation hours (10 am-4 pm).
- Stay in the shade whenever possible.
- Cover exposed areas and wear a hat.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
- Don't use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan!
Environmental Carcinogens: How Dangerous?
But many scientists think that estimate is far too low. Experts on the President’s Cancer Panel, appointed by former president George Bush, issued a report on the subject in 2010. They concluded that the 6% estimate is “woefully out of date” and that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancers has been grossly underestimated.” READ MORE
And, indeed, scientists are finding that environmental carcinogens may well play a bigger role than we now know. For instance, researchers have found that exposure to organochlorides (found in pesticides and plastics) in even small amounts may result in increased risk for certain cancers, especially for young adults and children. Exposure to carcinogens during critical periods of human development—before birth and during childhood—may trigger cancer later in life.
However, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine exactly how dangerous environmental contaminants are because those factors intertwine so closely with genetics and lifestyle. For instance, if someone smokes cigarettes and lives in an area with bad air pollution, that person has a synergistically increased risk of getting lung cancer. But what’s responsible for the cancer—the toxins in the air or the cigarette smoke? Unless a carcinogen can be removed from the environment so that the epidemiological effects can be studied, it’s very hard to make that call. LESS
BPARecently, a chemical called bisphenol-a (BPA) has been found, in animal studies, to be a potential cancer risk. BPA is found in some hard plastic containers and also in the lining of almost all canned goods. Studies have shown trace amounts of BPA are leaching from these containers into foods and liquids. READ MORE
To lessen your exposure to BPA, use plastic containers labeled “BPA-free” and, as much as possible, avoid using canned food. It’s a good idea not to use any plastic containers in the microwave, even those that are said to be microwave-safe. LESS
Get ImmunizedCertain viruses are associate with specific cancers. Fortunately, there are vaccines available to immunize against these viruses:
- Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. All babies and some high-risk adults should be vaccinated.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer. A protective vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11-12, and for girls and women ages 13-26 who haven’t completed the full vaccine series.
Avoid High-Risk BehaviorsViruses associate with certain types of cancer can be transmitted sexually or by sharing contaminated needles, so it’s important to use condoms and not share needles.
- HPV is associated with cervical cancer and also cancers of the anus, penis, throat, vulva, and vagina. The more sexual partners a person has in his or her lifetime, the more likely that person is to have HPV.
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can lead to AIDS, increases risk of anal cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, lymphoma, and Kaposi's sarcoma. People with many sexual partners and intravenous drug users who share needles have an increased risk of HIV.
- Hepatitis B and C increase the risk of liver cancer. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles with an infected drug user.