Mistaken Worries About Cancer Risks

Mistaken Worries About Cancer Risks

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, Sterling Hayden played an insane general determined to trigger a nuclear war. (Peter Sellers had three roles, including the nefarious doctor.) Back then, the only thing people were more frightened of than a nuclear exchange was cancer—and cancer phobia was widespread. Then Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking environmental expose, Silent Spring, reinforced that fear, declaring we were “living in a sea of carcinogens.”

We’ve since learned to effectively treat and even cure many cancers, and people today are more comfortable talking about a diagnosis. But you may still worry there’s not much you can do about the cancer-causing carcinogens that flow in and around your everyday life. More recently, UK researchers surveyed 1,330 people and found more than 40 percent thought some of the biggest cancer-causing culprits were food additives, electromagnetic frequencies (cell phones), GM food and drinking from plastic bottles.

But that’s not the case: The study in the European Journal of Cancer identifies the most significant cancer-menacing risks as smoking, being overweight and overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds. Fortunately, you can control your risks by avoiding second-hand smoke or smoke altogether, eating healthfully, exercising regularly, applying zinc oxide daily—and never-ever using a tanning bed.

You can reduce other risks of cancer by:

  • Avoiding receipts (common source of BPA or BPS) and washing hands after touching them.
  • Not using shampoos, fragrances and cosmetics containing phthalates dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP) and diethyl phthalate (DEP).
  • Thoroughly cleaning the Dirty Dozen (see pesticide-residue-containing veggies and fruits or go organic to get your 7-9 daily servings.

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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