Thursday, December 11, 2008

Can Your Environment Increase Your Cancer Risk?

One of the scariest things about cancer is that it just happens, and it's often hard to know why, or what we could have done to avoid it. And in some cases, it really is unavoidable. But the good news is that an estimated eighty percent of cancers are caused by our immediate environment – which means that we do have some control over our cancer risk! By limiting our exposure to chemical compounds in the products we use, the food we eat and the water we drink, we can help protect ourselves.

Even chemicals that have been deemed “safe” can build up to unsafe levels after years of repeated exposure. And as the body ages, its ability to effectively purge itself of toxins diminishes. When the cells are inundated with toxic substances that they can't get rid of, mutations occur; cancer is a proliferation of these mutated cells.

We're surrounded by these toxins on a daily basis, from even the most unlikely sources. Here is just a small sampling of fairly common carcinogenic compounds:

-solvents such as benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene

-asbestos, which can be found in older roofs, pipes, insulation, and many other products (over 5000 in all)

-dioxins, produced in part by the bleaching of paper products (including tampons and toilet paper)

While it's virtually impossible to avoid every environmental hazard, we can substantially cut our risk factor by being vigilant about what goes into (and onto) our bodies. Read labels and familiarize yourself with ingredients; the fewer chemicals you come in contact with, the better.

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