Risk Prevention: Noise Pollution and Lymphatic Cancers

Risk Prevention: Noise Pollution and Lymphatic Cancers

Steer clear of excessive noise and cancer risk with these expert tips.

Q: We live in NYC and the traffic noise has gotten so bad, it keeps us up at night. This can’t be good for us or the kids. What can we do? —Lucy G., NY, NY

A: You are right to be concerned—and you’re not alone. These days more than 11 million people in the US live within 492 feet of a major highway—bombarding them with stress-provoking, health-damaging levels of traffic noise. Regular city streets and high-volume roadways, especially in dense urban areas like where you live, Lucy, also deliver dangerous din levels that trigger premature aging. In the 1980s, 100 million people in the United States were exposed to noise sources from traffic near their homes. These days it’s millions more.

Chronic traffic noise causes anxiety, sleep disturbances and depression, provokes stress, and impairs memory and motor coordination, while reducing neural density in some parts of the brain. It also increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Studies have also shown that constant noise produces cognitive problems in schoolchildren.

So what can you do to protect your health if you live in a noisy place?

  • Make sure your windows close tightly; use weather stripping if needed; hang heavy drapes.
  • Exercise in quiet zones, surrounded by nature.
  • Practice de-stressing routines such as deep breathing, mindfulness or yoga.
  • Check out “Pink Noise for Better Sleep” at to download apps that 75 percent of folks say help them sleep better.

Q: I read that eating organic can lower the risk for cancer. Do I really have to spend all that money to lower my cancer risk—if I can even find organic produce at my local grocery? —Jill B., Pierre, SD

A: The news you’re referring to is the new French study that found eating organic lowered cancer rates significantly, especially for lymphatic cancers. We know eating organic is important for three months prior to conception, and for women during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. But this study looked at cancer and organic food consumption in adults over age 40. Almost 60,000 participants offered a one-time report on their consumption of 16 organic foods in terms of whether they ate them never, occasionally or most of the time. Over five years, those eating the most organic foods had a 20 percent lower rate of cancer than the other groups, while the risk for non-Hodgkins and other lymphomas decrease by almost 70 percent.

But this study did not control for the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, which people who eat organic foods are known for. So we say:

  1. To stave off chronic diseases, from cancer to diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, eat seven to nine servings of produce a day, organic or not! A five-year study in the International Journal of Cancer found eating lots of cruciferous veggies and red and yellow fruits and veggies (no mention of organic) reduces cancer risk—especially for the most aggressive kinds! And a UK study of more than 600,000 women found no correlation between eating organic foods and reducing cancer risk, except perhaps for non-Hodgkins and other lymphomas.
  2. Become physically active. According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, more than two dozen studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who are sedentary and three dozen studies show exercisers reduce colon cancer risk by 20 percent or more compared to sedentary people.

So don’t worry if you’re not eating organic—just make sure you wash your fruits and veggies well.

It’s more important to eat a plant-based diet, sleep well and exercise (aerobics and strength-building) for 60 minutes most days. Keep track of your progress in all three areas with the Sharecare app for iOS and Android.

Medically reviewed in March 2020.

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