How to Go Green with Silv: Cancer Prevention by Silvia Milanova, August 12 2015, 0 Comments

The topic of cancer doesn’t seem to fade away for long. Its prevalence and its prevention seem to be constant topics in the medical field. For decades, cancer prevention focused primarily on lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, reducing drinking, healthy eating and exercising. But not until recently has there been more of a focus on the role environmental toxins play in causing cancer, as well as on the steps people can take to avoid exposure to these dangerous toxins.

To put this epidemic in perspective, here are some facts from the National Cancer Institute:

  • In 2015, there will be approximately 1,658,370 new cancer cases in the US
  • Of all cancer cases, the percentage of people who are still surviving after five years is 66.5% (according to 2005-2011 data)
  • The lifetime risk of developing cancer based on 2010-2012 data is approximately 39.6 percent for both men and women. That means that almost 40 percent of people will be diagnosed with cancer (of any type) at some point during their lifetime. (This statistic is shocking! That is almost 1 in every 2 people...)
  • The most prevalent type of cancer in females is breast cancer with an estimated 231,840 new cases in 2015. Lung and bronchus cancer are the next most common cancers with approximately 221,200 new cases in 2015, and prostate cancer with about 220,800 cases

These statistics are pretty staggering, considering how advanced medicine is nowadays. But keeping track of such statistics can help scientists, researchers and doctors understand whether they’re making progress and what additional research they need to conduct to address challenges, such as improving screening, finding better treatments or identifying potential environmental causes. We'd all like to avoid those toxins if possible!

But first, we need to know which chemicals we are exposed to daily may be causing cancer. The National Institute of Health keeps an updated list of known human carcinogens on their website. Now, a new report by The Halifax Project shows that many common chemicals that are not known to cause cancer on their own can affect cancer-related mechanisms in the body when combined with other chemicals at the low doses people typically encounter in the environment. Based on this new research, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released a report Dirty Dozen: Cancer Edition that lists 12 of these harmful chemicals to avoid. These toxins include Bisphenol A (BPA), lead, mercury and other carcinogens, or substances that play a direct part in causing cancer. The group also suggests steps to take in order to reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals that may contribute to the development of cancer.

Here are some tips to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals and help prevent cancer, including EWG’s nine tips:

  • Filter your tap water, as it may contain carcinogenic chemicals. A simple carbon filter or pitcher should do the job.
  • Take off your shoes at the door. Your shoes can drag chemical fertilizers and herbicides into your home. Make it a habit to take off your own shoes before you enter your home and ask your house guests to do the same. 
  • Seal outdoor wooden decks and play sets—these may be coated with arsenic pesticide.
  • Cut down on stain- and grease proofing chemicals. These may be found in your couches, carpets and wrappers for packaged and fast food.
  • Use greener solution alternatives when controlling pest problems. Traditional, chemical-based insect pest control treatments may leak chemicals into your home. This may pose a bigger threat to you and your family than the insects themselves.
  • Stay safe in the sun—seek shade, wear protective clothing and hats, and use EWG-approved sunscreens with high SPF. It’s also important to get annual skin checks, especially if you have fair skin or many moles and beauty marks on your skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatology and Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • Cut down on fatty meat and high-fat dairy products. Cancer-causing pollutants can build up in the food chain and they are most common in animal fat.
  • Eat EWG’s Clean 15—choose "clean" fruits and vegetables! Or even better, grow your own!
  • Cut your exposure to BPA—BPA is used in some hard plastic water bottles, canned infant formula, and canned foods. BPA may increase your risk of reproductive system cancers, so try to limit your exposure by eating fewer canned foods, breast feeding your baby or using powdered formula, and choosing BPA-free water bottles.
  • Avoid carcinogens in cosmetics. Due to recent awareness and safety campaigns, it’s more widely known that cosmetics, and some of your favorite beauty products, may contain hundreds of harmful chemicals. To find healthier beauty options and safe cosmetics, use EWG's Skin Deep cosmetic database.
  • Choose your pots and pans wisely. Some pots and pans can be coated with chemicals that make them nonstick cookware. A common coating is Teflon coating, which contains Perfluorinated (PFCs), which is likely a carcinogen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These chemicals can leak into your food and accumulate in your body. Buy healthier alternatives, such as cast iron and stainless steel pans and skillets. 
  • Dust and vacuum your home regularly (at least two times each week, according to WebMD), as dust can contain hazardous chemicals such as lead, fire retardants and pesticides. 
  • Read the warnings—they’re there! Read labels on products before you buy them, as some products list warnings of cancer risks. The state of California has managed to get a "Proposition 65" warning label placed on products that contain chemicals the state has identified as cancer-causing. Way to go, California! Now, who will follow?
As the statistics show, cancer is more common today than we think. And we may not be actively thinking about prevention unless we are personally affected by cancer or know someone who is. But this epidemic is real. That's why it's more important than ever to protect ourselves and our families by limiting our exposure to toxic chemicals that may increase our risk for cancer. The steps mentioned in this article are a good start!