Cancer and the Environment
Today is Earth Day, an opportunity to reflect on the impact we each have on the planet (as individuals and as companies), but also a day to consider how the products and foods we consume can have an impact on us. Living organisms all share three common bonds, they eat, breathe and grow. Be it micro-organisms, plants, trees, animals, or people, we all take sustenance from the earth, and by the transitive property, what goes into the earth/water/air goes into us.
Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors
The National Cancer Institute has a section of their website dedicated to education about cancer and the environment, highlighting factors that can increase your risk of cancer, many of which can be minimized based on lifestyle choices. The following are the top avoidable environmental risk factors and the proportion of cancer deaths that have been linked to each. For example, 29-31% of cancer deaths can be linked to tobacco.
- Tobacco 29-31%
- Diet 20-50%
- Infections (bacteria, viruses) 10-20%
- Ionizing and UV light 5-7%
- Occupation 2-4%
- Pollution (air, water, food) 1-5%
Researchers have estimated that as many as 2 in 3 cases of cancer (67%) are linked to some type of environmental factor. However, environmental exposure on it’s own does not cause cancer. It’s the gene-to-gene interactions that occur inside each of us that can cause cancer in one person, and not in another, when both are exposed to similar environmental factors.
Have you made “green” changes in your lifestyle habits?
While much of the focus for Earth Day is on preserving our natural resources and the health of the planet, we encourage you to also think about how you can reduce the environmental factors that increase your risk for cancer.
- Have you made any changes in your lifestyle to reduce your environmental cancer risks? If so, what?
- Did you make the changes before or after you were diagnosed?
- If after, how big an impact did your diagnosis have on your decision?