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Cancer Prevention Diet And Lifestyle

How To Reduce Exposure To Carcinogens

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Carcinogens are substances which can cause cancer. Carcinogens are all around us. While we cannot avoid exposure to carcinogens totally, we can reduce our exposure.

This is particularly important because some carcinogens actually multiply the effect of other carcinogens rather than just add to their negative effect.

Common carcinogens include:

  • Smoking.
    • Tobacco smoke contains at least 55 known carcinogens.
    • It doesn't matter whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco. They all contain the same carcinogenic compounds.
    • Marijuana produces the same kind of damage to the lungs that cigarette smoke does.
  • Second hand smoke.
    • Second hand smoke is a mixture of exposure to smoke exhaled by smokes and smoke from burning tobacco. The chemical composition of both kinds of secondhand smoke is similar to what smokers inhale.
    • For information on your rights with respect to second hand smoke, and how to reduce exposure at home, in the work place and in your community, see:
  • Radon (a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is found in soil). 
    • You can learn about exposure to radon and how to reduce it from the Environmental Protection Agency free booklet: A Citizen's Guide To Radon. You can read it online at offsite link or call 800.SOS.RADON
  • Medical imaging tests. Avoid unnecessary tests which include radiation
  • Asbestos
    • Asbestos is a building material which was used in construction and manufacturing from the 1940s to the 1970s. Many older buildings contain asbestos products. If they are in good condition, they do not pose a significant risk to nearby people. Asbestos becomes dangerous if old asbestos deteriorates and begins to crumble or if dust ir raised by renovations or repairs.
    • If you are exposed to asbestos at work, take precautions. 
    • You can learn about protecting yourself from exposure to asbestos at work from OSHA of the US Department of Labor. Go to offsite link. Search for "asbestos" 
  • Exposure to hazardous materials at work. For example, hazardous chemicals, asbestos, radon, radiation and second hand smoke. Speak with your employer about means of reducing risks due to exposure.
  • Air pollution - including indoor air.
    • For information about protecting yourself, see the Environmental Protection Agency free booklet: The Inside Story: A Guide To Indoor Air Quality. Go to offsite link
  • Charcoal-broiling meats at very high temperatures creates chemicals that may increase cancer risk.

According to current evidence, the following do not show increased risk for causing cancer:

  • Artificial sweeteners.
  • Bioengineered foods (foods made through techniques of bioengineering or biotechnology which have been altered by the addition of genes from plants or other organisms).
  • Eating irradiated foods.
  • Drinking coffee.

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