Reducing your risk of cancer involves more than eating a healthy diet that is low in fat and high in nutrients. Exposure to certain environmental factors can set the stage for development of cancer by actually causing damage to your DNA.
Everyday Exposure to Cancer-Causing Elements
As explained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer occurs when genes mutate in such a way that cell replication and growth is severely altered. While this can occur naturally, specific elements of the environment have been found to inflict this type of damage on DNA.
Here are some of the environmental carcinogens that present the biggest risk of causing cancer. Some are difficult to avoid, but others are more easily controlled.
- Aflatoxins, which are associated with risk of liver cancer, are produced by mold that’s most often found on crops such as corn and peanuts. Aspergillus is the most common variety of aflatoxin-producing mold.
- Tobacco smoke is one of the more highly publicized carcinogens. One obvious solution is to quit smoking or never start, but second-hand smoke is harder to avoid.
- Asbestos releases minute fibers into the air when damaged. Ingesting these fibers can lead to lung cancer or mesothelioma. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has instituted strict measures governing the use of asbestos, which have greatly reduced its risk.
NCI emphasizes that exposure to these elements doesn’t guarantee cancer. Factors such as length of exposure and individual genetic makeup also play a part.
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