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Everything gives you cancer: but good lifestyle choices will help you fight it off.

Imagine inviting 12 friends to a dinner party--six men and six women. Look around the room and consider this: sometime in the future, two of the women and three of the men will develop cancer.

Depressing as it seems, those are the odds we all must face, according to the American Cancer Society American Cancer Society, established in 1913, this national volunteer-based health organization is committed to the elimination of cancer through prevention and treatment and to diminishing cancer suffering through advocacy, scholarship, research,
 (ACS (Asynchronous Communications Server) See network access server. ). Doctors diagnosed 1.3 million people with cancer in 2004, ACS statistics show, and about half of those patients did not survive. One piece of hopeful news comes from the National Cancer Institute, which argues that 80 percent of all cancers are linked to the environment (including diet and lifestyle choices like smoking). So if we can figure out what kinds of chemicals or behaviors are causing certain types of cancer, we can prevent them.

Cigarette smoking is the most obvious example. If we could persuade everyone to stop smoking, lung cancer rates would drop by 90 percent. That would make a significant dent in the problem because lung cancer causes more deaths in men and women than any other type of cancer. Cigarette smoking is a key risk factor for breast and pancreatic cancer as well.

Being overweight is another top cause of breast, prostate and colon cancer. Too much sun exposure--another lifestyle choice--also is at the top of the list of cancer causes. Then there's too much unprotected sex, which spreads Human Papillomavirus (HPV HPV human papillomavirus.

human papilloma virus

Human papilloma virus (HPV) 
), a sexually transmitted disease sexually transmitted disease (STD) or venereal disease, term for infections acquired mainly through sexual contact. Five diseases were traditionally known as venereal diseases: gonorrhea, syphilis, and the less common granuloma inguinale,  that drives up cervical cancer rates. Failing to go for routine screenings, including pap tests, also leads to more cancer deaths.

Beyond that, it comes down to a combination of genetics and having the bad luck to run into something carcinogenic carcinogenic

having a capacity for carcinogenesis.
 in the environment. Potential culprits include toxic chemicals, radon, asbestos, pesticides, magnetic fields, viruses and bacteria.

Ominous Signs

It's clear something has changed to make our environment more cancerous. Overall cancer incidence increased 48 percent between 1950 and 1990, according to the National Cancer Institute. That includes a 33 percent increase in childhood brain cancer, a 52 percent increase in breast cancer and a 134 percent increase in prostate cancer.

During that same time period, thousands of new chemicals flooded the market. Americans use 100,000 chemicals in everything from household cleaners and lawn chemicals to cosmetics and food preservatives, according to the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS NIEHS National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH, DHHS) ). Manufacturers introduce 1,000 new chemicals each year.

We have so many chemicals in our country, government officials have trouble keeping up. Inevitably, some cancer-causing products will reach consumers. "You could ask, 'Are we doing enough? And are we doing it fast enough?'" says Paul Schulte, director of the education and information division for the National institute of Occupational Safety and Health The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness.  (NIOSH NIOSH National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, see there

NIOSH Recommendations for Safety & Health Standards

Agent  NIOSH REL*/OSHA PEL  Health effects
). "We need to look for more systematic approaches that can screen larger numbers of chemicals."

Until those systems are in place, consumers must protect themselves. Below, we offer a list of common environmental causes of cancer. Health experts also share the latest prevention strategies.

Work-Related Exposure

Sadly, for many workers, the price of paying the bills for the family is getting sick with cancer. "On average, about four percent of all cancers are related to occupation," says Schulte. "But occupational cancer affects blue-collar workers more than white-collar workers." NIOSH estimates 40,000 American workers get cancer each year because of occupational exposure.

Certain industries have a higher cancer rate than others. Workers who make tires in rubber plants breathe 1,3-butadiene all day. Furniture makers and refinishers inhale a lot of benzene. Stone workers get lung cancer from silica dust. The plastic industry has more liver cancer. Agricultural workers who spray a lot of pesticides have a higher rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and myeloma myeloma /my·elo·ma/ (mi?e-lo´mah) a tumor composed of cells of the type normally found in the bone marrow.

giant cell myeloma  see under tumor (1).

It's up to employers to prevent occupational cancer, Schulte says, and they're getting better at it. But workers need to make sure they have the right protective gear and wear it. It's also a good idea to notify your doctor if you work with known carcinogens.

Threats at Home

Meanwhile, some of the same threats people face in the workplace also are present--in lower levels--at home. Formaldehyde can leak from plywood furniture. Radon seeps from cracks in basement foundations. And lawn chemicals can waft over from a neighbor's yard. A nearby municipal incinerator could be clouding the skies with dioxin.

When it comes to lung cancer, people too often overlook some of the environmental causes, says Janice Nolen, director of national policy for the American Lung Association The American Lung Association (ALA) is a non-profit organization that "fights lung disease in all its forms, with special emphasis on asthma, tobacco control and environmental health".  (ALA). For example, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. It causes 23,000 deaths per year. Particulate pollution, from coal soot and diesel fuel, also causes lung cancer.

Nolen strongly advises homeowners to test for radon (or add special ventilation if building a new house). "You can't assume it's not in your area because it varies from house to house," she says.

Other precautions include staying inside on high particulate pollution days and making sure your child is not exposed to too much diesel pollution on school buses.

Estrogen Worries

Scientists are studying a relatively new class of chemicals called environmental estrogens Estrogens
Hormones produced by the ovaries, the female sex glands.

Mentioned in: Acne, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

estrogens (es´trōjenz),
. These compounds act like the body's natural hormones. They may be part of the rise in breast cancer. "Some breast tumor cells won't grow unless estrogen is there," says Suzanne Snedeker, a researcher with Cornell University's Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Factors program (BCERF BCERF Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors ).

Environmental estrogens bind to estrogen receptors and then send signals to breast cells to divide out of control and create a tumor. Estrogenic compounds include dioxin, many pesticides and plastic components, such as bisphenol A (BPA BPA British Paediatric Association. ), some of which are released by microwaving containers. More recently, government researchers found evidence that estrogen from excreted birth control and hormone-replacement pills is getting into drinking water supplies. Snedeker suggests filtering drinking water to be safe.

Healthy Lifestyle

Exercising on a regular basis is almost as hard as quitting smoking for some. But obesity is a top cause of cancer, and keeping active sends oxygen to cells and prevents DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
 or deoxyribonucleic acid

One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes.
 damage. Health experts now say we need to do even more than a half hour three times a week. The right amount is one hour of moderate exercise per day, says Karen Collins, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research (MCR MCR My Chemical Romance (band)
MCR Minimum Capital Requirement
MCR Minimum Cell Rate
MCR Middle Common Room (UK universities)
MCR Multivariate Curve Resolution
). "Moderate exercise" means taking an evening stroll, riding your bike to the post office or getting tough with the weeds in the backyard.

Everyone knows it's important to eat right, but most of us have no idea how to do it. Too much protein and saturated fat from animal sources causes the body to produce prostaglandins, which can stimulate abnormal cell division. Non-organic meat also may have synthetic hormones. For these reasons, health experts now say a predominately vegetarian diet is healthiest.

AICR AICR American Institute for Cancer Research (Washington, DC)
AICR Association for International Cancer Research
AICR American International Club of Rome
AICR Atlantic Institute of Clinical Research
 offers a cookbook called The New American Plate. Instead of serving a huge slab of meat and potatoes meat and potatoes
pl.n. Informal (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
The fundamental parts or part; the basis.

Noun 1.
 with a tiny portion of peas, nutritionists say we should put two vegetables and a lot of whole grains on our plates. Meat or protein should take up no more than 1/3 of the plate.

Scientists at the University of Illinois' Functional Foods for Health program are zeroing in on natural compounds in certain foods that appear to prevent cancer. For example, lycopene lycopene /ly·co·pene/ (li´ko-pen) the red carotenoid pigment of tomatoes and various berries and fruits.

, found in tomatoes, protects against prostate cancer. Garlic, blueberries, broccoli, fish and green tea are other foods with cancer-busting qualities.

Natural health guru Dr. Andrew Well suggests trying to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables each day to get the right variety of nutrients. Experts say five servings of fruits and veggies Veggies of Nottingham, also known as Veggies Catering Campaign, is a campaigning group based in Nottingham, England, promoting ethicalbum alternatives to mainstream fast food.  is good, but nine is even better.

Studies clearly show, with a healthy lifestyle, we can cut 30 to 40 percent of the cancers we face. Keith Singletary, a University of Illinois University of Illinois may refer to:
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (flagship campus)
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Springfield
  • University of Illinois system
It can also refer to:
 nutrition professor, says the odds tip in your favor if you get active, eat more veggies and lose those last few pounds. "Don't let the years go by," he says. "Go for it!" CONTACT: American Cancer Society, (800) ACS-2345,; American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), (800) 843-8114,

MELISSA KNOPPER is a Colorado-based freelance writer.
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Author:Knopper, Melissa
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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