Cancer – one of the most feared diseases on the planet, but it still doesn’t have a cure. Sadly, it’s also one of the most common diagnoses in our country.
About 2 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the US in 2023 alone. But why is this illness so common nowadays?
There’s a wide range of reasons, and doctors are still trying to figure out how it works. However, we do know that our lifestyle choices can have a major impact on preventing or reducing the risk of all types of cancer.
In fact, the World Health Organization says that up to 50% of all cases of cancer are entirely preventable, which is great news!
Aside from eating healthy foods and avoiding dangerous vices like alcohol and drugs, there are a few common habits that increase our long-term risks for this brutal illness.
Today, we’ll explore 20 of the most common ‘innocent’ habits we should cut to reduce our risk of cancer and stay healthy. Ready?
We eat too much sugar
According to the latest recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, each of us should eat up to 12 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Now, the average American is eating 17 teaspoons of sugar or more every single day. Aside from the increased risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, excessive consumption of sugar can also increase our long-term risks for cancer.
If you want to reduce your sugar intake, you should be more careful when it comes to ready-made desserts, soda, and those tasty Starbucks beverages (after all, there’s a reason why they’re that tasty, right?).
We work until late at night
Over the past few years, many of us have gotten into the unhealthy habit of working the late shift.
According to this 2018 study published in the journal Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention, women working the night shift have a 19% higher risk of developing cancer at some point in their lives.
Researchers believe this is mainly due to changes in melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for sleepiness, but it’s also a great ally to protect us from multiple types of cancer.
Whether you’re working the night shift or just staying up late at night, this seemingly innocent habit can seriously damage your health.
We’re having poor oral hygiene
This study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that diseases affecting your gums can increase your risk of colorectal and lung cancer by a whopping 24%.
Although scientists still seek further evidence to prove their theory, they believe gum disease affects your immune system, specifically how bacteria travel through major organs. This might make harmful substances reach vital organs such as the lungs faster, thus increasing your risk of cancer.
We’re eating processed foods
Aside from being extremely commonly encountered, these foods can harm us in so many ways, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.
According to Yeral Patel, MD, a board-certified physician in California, “consumption of processed foods causes inflammation—one of the leading contributors to cancer—and these foods also lack key micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) on which our bodies depend to rid themselves of harmful toxins.’
We’re all stressed out
Stress is probably among the most common challenges of this century. Stress can deeply affect hormone production while causing insomnia, increasing unhealthy cravings, and disrupting all normal functions.
Furthermore, stressed individuals are much more likely to develop unhealthy habits as they try to cope with this problem. Smoking, overeating, or drinking alcohol are all linked to stress, and they all increase cancer risks.
Right now, there aren’t any major studies confirming a direct link between stress and cancer. However, we do know that its effects on our body, such as those listed above, can increase the risk of cancer.
We experience inflammation
Inflammation is often associated with disease, but in fact, it’s a great thing. This is our body’s way of fighting off external threats or treating wounds; it is painful and unpleasant, but it’s the only way our immune system can save us from so many dangerous things.
However, sometimes our body starts fighting without any real injury – a process known as chronic inflammation. When this happens, your DNA is affected, and the overall process can cause cancer.
Chronic inflammation is most commonly caused by smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, and having an unhealthy diet with minimal nutritional intake.
In short, we can avoid chronic inflammation and its dangerous effects simply by living a healthier lifestyle.
We’re eating charred meat
Who doesn’t love a good barbecue or some roasted meat for lunch? This is perhaps one of the most popular meal choices in our country, especially during the hot season.
Unfortunately, it’s just as harmful as it is tasty.
The National Cancer Institute points out several studies proving that frying meat at high temperatures or flame-grilling can trigger a chemical-forming process. During this process, the DNA can literally be affected, which increases your risk for all types of cancer.
We’re using parabens
I’ve heard the term ‘parabens’ before, but I didn’t really know what it was until now.
According to a research paper from the Journal of Applied Toxicology, parabens are chemical preservatives that get easily absorbed by our skin. These chemicals are confirmed to increase the risk of breast cancer cells and even boost their growth if they’re already there.
The problem? Parabens can be found in shampoos, toothpaste, deodorants, and plenty of cosmetics. In short, they’re everywhere, and their long-term impact can be devastating.
We’re eating deli meats
For many people, it’s impossible to imagine a complete breakfast without some crispy bacon or sausages. However, these delicious treats may do more harm than good in the long run.
A few years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer officially listed processed meat as a human carcinogen. Why?
Firstly, these foods are manufactured using chemicals known to damage colon and rectum cells. In fact, if you eat just 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day, you can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by almost 20%!
The most popular processed meats are hot dogs, sausage, ham, pepperoni, beef jerky, roast beef, and any other deli meats.
Secondhand smoking refers to the inhalation of smoke from other people’s cigarettes.
Unfortunately, even if you’re not a smoker yourself, spending too much time around smokers can still increase your long-term risks of nasal sinus cavity cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, and breast cancer.
Things are even worse for children who become secondhand smokers, as they have an increased risk of lymphoma, leukemia, and brain tumors, as per the National Cancer Institute.
We’re using talcum powder
Talcum powder, commonly known as baby powder, is the white powder many parents apply on their babies’ diaper area. This practice has been around for decades, and it’s still fairly popular in our country.
If you’re doing this or if you know somebody who’s still using talcum powder, stop immediately.
Multiple studies published in the journal Epidemiology discovered that using baby powder in the genital area can increase the risk of ovarian cancer by 33%. Furthermore, this study also found that talcum powder can increase endometrial cancer risks by 24%.
Specialists believe talc is to blame; this is the mineral mainly used to make talcum powder, and it can be contaminated with asbestos – a dangerous carcinogen.
If secondhand smoking is bad, just wait until you get this information…
There are tens of different types of human cancer in the world right now. However, by far the most common one is lung cancer. Why?
Because the most common cause of lung cancer is smoking.
The smoke from tobacco has more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 70 of these chemicals are scientifically labeled as carcinogens. These substances mainly increase your risk of lung cancer, but they also make you more prone to every other type of cancer as well.
The World Health Organization says that smoking is the ‘single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer deaths.’ Sadly, this habit is causing almost 6 million deaths every single year.
We’re eating chips and fries
Since we were talking about tobacco, you should know that tobacco smoke contains acrylamide. The chemical is also formed when veggies containing sugars are heated at high temperatures, such as when frying.
Such foods include French fries, crackers, cookies, potato chips, and even some breakfast cereals.
Multiple animal studies showed that acrylamide can damage the DNA, thus increasing the risk of cancer. Right now, there isn’t any conclusive research performed on humans, but why should you risk it?
French fries and chips are unhealthy enough as they are, and their excessive amounts of sodium and trans fats can definitely increase your long-term risk of cancer.
We’re using plastic
What would our lives be like without plastic containers?
It would probably be more complicated and, according to some experts, healthier as well.
Certain types of plastic are manufactured using BPA; a synthetic hormone known for altering our endocrine system, as well as increasing our risk of breast cancer.
Right now, there’s still more research required to examine the exact impact of using plastic containers on our health. However, I return to one of my favorite sayings and remind you that prevention is better than treatment!
We’re enjoying too many desserts
This is probably one of the most obvious risk factors for cancer on our list. However, we have to discuss it because the average American is eating more sweets than the daily recommended intake.
Eating treats like candy, frappe (think Starbucks varieties), or doughnuts excessively increases the risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, bad cholesterol, and inflammation – all of which can, in turn, increase your risk of cancer.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, you should ideally eat up to 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, as per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Now, the average adult in our country is eating more than 17 teaspoons of sugar every single day!
We’re not exercising enough
According to Dr. Patel, ‘one of the biggest causes of cancer is leading a sedentary lifestyle. The human body needs to move. Exercise is crucial to help eliminate harmful toxins from the body.’
In other words, your body can’t get rid of all the toxins you ingest (or inhale) daily if you spend most of your day on the couch. Public health officials are currently recommending at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day – whether it’s walking, jogging, or cycling.
We’re staying too much in the sun
We all know that we should be very careful during the hot season to avoid sunburns. However, there’s something more important than that: cancer.
Sunlight naturally produces ultraviolet radiation (UV). Sadly, this is the most common cause of skin cancer in humans, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Multiple studies have proven that getting a single sunburn every two years can triple your risk of melanoma, which is the most fatal type of cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has linked 13 types of cancer with obesity or being overweight. The list includes thyroid, esophagus, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, liver, colon, and rectum cancers too.
Admittedly, specialists still can’t tell how excess fat impacts the rest of the body to increase the risk of cancer so much. However, all statistics indicate a strong bond between the two.
For example, a CDC analysis found that 40% of cancers diagnosed in our country involve subjects that are either overweight or obese.
We’re not eating enough fruits & veggies
A recent study published in the prestigious journal Cancer Prevention Research says that ‘consumption of fruit and/or vegetables has been inversely associated with head and neck, esophageal, stomach, and colorectal cancer risks.’
In other words, adopting a plant-based diet that’s rich in fruits and veggies can drastically reduce your risk of cancer. Specialists believe this beneficial effect is due to the high amounts of antioxidants, enzymes, and fiber found in these food categories.
For example, antioxidants are renowned for fighting off toxic free radicals that enter your system and might increase your long-term risk of cancer.
We’re drinking too much
Many people love to end a busy day by spending some quality time at home with a glass of wine nearby – and that’s fine. In fact, specialists say women can drink one glass of alcohol per day and men can enjoy up to two glasses.
If you’re an alcohol enthusiast, though, you should know that you’re in bigger danger than you think.
The National Cancer Institute found that drinking alcohol constantly can increase the risk of cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, breast, and liver. The principle is simple: the more alcohol you ingest, the higher your long-term risk becomes.
In a world so full of toxins, heavily processed foods, and harmful vices, staying healthy might seem like an impossible mission. It’s especially hard if you’re overly stressed, lack privileges like financial security, or have certain underlying conditions.
However, the best thing we can do is try to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Healthy habits such as physical activity or eating more fruits and vegetables are extremely easy to adopt, and they can have a major beneficial impact on our mental and physical health.
Still not sure where to start? This book may help you to have a better diet that improves your mood while uplifting your energy.
You should also check out: 8 Life-Saving Questions You Should Ask Your Pharmacist