A leading cause of death globally is cancer. In the 2022 news release, World Health Organization reported that cancer caused around 10 million deaths worldwide in 2020. That accounts for one in six deaths.
The highest risk factor for developing a majority of cancers is advancing age. But, the Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology study reveals that doctors are witnessing an increase in cancer in people younger than 50. Scientists, as well as doctors, are searching for reasons behind this dramatic rise in early-onset cancer.
Hereditary sometimes appears to be the reason a person develops cancer. But only five to ten percent of cancers are believed to be hereditary. Many times, a person develops cancer due to the environment they live in.
Today, we’ll discuss a few known environmental risks of cancer in this guide.
Tobacco and Alcohol
Tobacco is the primary cause of lung cancer and accounts for 25 percent of cancer deaths worldwide, reveals a recent World Health Organization news release. As of 2021, 26 percent of the adult population used tobacco. That puts an estimated 186 million people at risk of developing cancer.
Prolonged use of tobacco in men is linked with 92 percent of bronchus, trachea, and lung cancer, the second most common cancer in both genders. This association rate for women is 62 percent. Though low, the number is still staggering. Chewing tobacco, using cigars, pipes, cigarettes, vaping, or snuff increases a person’s risk of developing cancer. Oddly enough, exposure to secondhand smoke also puts a person at an increased risk of lung cancer.
Research has also revealed that cancer risk is high among people who drink alcohol regularly. People who are heavy drinkers are two to three times more likely to develop neck and head cancer than those who don’t drink at all.
Alcohol destroys cell DNA and proteins, impairing the body’s capacity to break down nutrients and boost estrogen levels. Ultimately, this increases a person’s risk of cancer. Consumption of alcohol has also been linked to breast, colorectal, esophageal, and lung cancers.
Exposure to certain chemicals can increase your risk of cancer. These cancer-causing agents are known as carcinogens. Over 100,000 chemicals are present in the environment, of which only 30,000 have been analyzed. Among those 30,000 chemicals, 275 are found to be carcinogenic.
Painters, agriculture workers, shipbuilders, uranium workers, certain factory and chemical plant workers, construction and petroleum workers, asbestos workers, and nuclear industry workers are at an increased risk of cancer.
Firefighters are also at an increased risk of developing cancer, as they are constantly exposed to aqueous film-forming foam. AFFF, or aqueous film-forming foam, is a fire suppressant used to extinguish flammable liquid fires. Since the 1960s, AFFF has been in use for suppressing fires.
However, growing research shows that two of the compounds, namely perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the AFFF, are carcinogenic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refers to PFOA and PFOS as “two contaminants of emerging concern.”
Human epidemiological studies have found a link between cancer and PFOA exposure. Not surprisingly, the risk of cancer is three times high in firefighters than in others. Since then, lawsuits have been filed against DuPont, 3M, Chemours, and dozens of other manufacturers of AFFF, reveals TorHoerman Law.
In the firefighter foam lawsuit, plaintiffs argue that the manufacturers should be held liable for the damage caused due to AFFF exposure. The settlement amount varies from person to person. But on average, it could be between $150,000 and $500,000.
Many chemicals found in cosmetic products are also linked with cancer. Parabens, phthalates, talc, synthetic fragrance, formaldehyde, petrolatum, and dioxane are labeled carcinogenic.
A handful of findings reveal that exposure to cadmium, benzidine, benzene, asbestos, vinyl chloride, radon, arsenic, and nickel in the workplace cause cancer.
Obesity is known to increase a person’s risk of at least 13 types of cancer, reveals a large number of studies. Two of the most common cancers linked with being overweight are prostate and breast cancer. Despite obesity being common in the U.S., only a handful of people are aware that it’s a risk factor for cancer.
In the field of oncology, obesity has become a major concern as it contributes to eight percent of cancer cases. Maintaining an appropriate weight today has become more important than it ever was to mitigate your risk of overweight or obesity-associated cancers.
Be it breast, colon, lung, or prostate cancer, alteration in genes, more or less, triggers cancer. These factors aren’t the only ones that alter a person’s genes and increase their risk of developing cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, certain viruses like human papillomavirus (HPV), and ionizing radiation are a few other factors that are believed to cause cancer in humans.
Changes in lifestyle and taking measures to protect yourself from UV rays and ionizing radiation can lessen your chance of cancer. In regard to virus-related cancers, nothing much can be done because vaccines are yet to develop.
If you think you’re at a greater risk of developing cancer, make sure to consult a medical professional, as they will guide you best in this regard.