Things That Cause Cancer…and Things That Probably Don’t

February is a significant month in the global Cancer calendar; not only is it the month in which we celebrate World Cancer Day, but the whole month is devoted to supporting cancer prevention.

National Cancer Prevention Month was first observed in 2004. It was introduced to encourage communities worldwide to take the opportunity to educate one another on the steps they can take to prevent cancer.

So with that in mind, we’re going to take along at things that we know cause and cancer and how they might be prevented, and we’re also going to take a look at several things that have previously been linked to the cause of cancer, but extensive research has proved that they probably don’t.

Things that cause cancer.

Smoking and Tobacco

Cigarette and Tobacco smoke contains at least 70 chemicals, known as carcinogens, that cause cancer. Today lung cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide.

Smoking cigarettes continues to be the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Globally, in 2018 there were an estimated 2.1 million lung cancer cases and 1.8 million deaths. In Malaysia, Lung Cancer is among the top five causes of death among men, and in 2020 over 5000 new cases were reported.

Cigar smoking, pipe smoking, low-tar cigarettes and menthol cigarettes can also increase lung cancer risks just as much as smoking regular cigarettes.

Inhaling secondhand smoke from someone else’s cigarette or other smoking devices can also cause lung cancer. Research has indicated that some 10-15% of lung cancer-related deaths are people who never smoked.

Along with lung cancer, smoking is also a risk factor for other cancers, including cancers of the mouth, cervix and kidney.

To help prevent lung cancer, avoid any form of smoking or tobacco products.

Alcohol consumption

Studies have shown that alcohol consumption is associated with various types of cancers. The more alcohol a person drinks over time, the higher their risk of developing alcohol-associated cancer.

Alcohol is linked to liver, colorectal and breast cancer, and cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and oesophagus (the muscular tube that connects your mouth to your stomach), plus it can also increase the risk of pancreas and stomach cancer.

Researchers say that alcohol affects the risk of cancer in several ways. One being, it acts as an irritant that can damage body tissues. When cells try to repair themselves, alcohol leads to DNA changes that can point to cancer. Alcohol also affects the absorption of folate and other nutrients, estrogen levels and body weight, all of which can contribute to cancer growth.

As a result and to help prevent cancer, you should limit your alcohol intake.

Continuous exposure to the Sun or Tanning Beds

Nothing feels better and cheers us up than having the warm sun on our bodies, or a quick session on the sunbed when it’s raining outside, but too much of either can lead to cancer.

Worldwide between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000, melanoma skin cancers occur each year. Today, one in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer.

You see the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, and man-made sources such as tanning beds have been found to increase skin cancer risk. Researchers have found that most skin cancers directly result from exposure to the UV rays in sunlight.

Observational studies have also shown that basal and squamous cell cancers (the most common types of skin cancer) can be linked to spending more time in the sun and living in countries that have a high amount of sun. Melanoma, a less common but more severe form of skin cancer, is also associated with exposure to the sun.

Suggested ways to prevent skin cancer include staying out of the sun between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm. Generously use a high-quality sunscreen, keep any exposed areas covered with hats or loose clothes and utilise any shade when you are outdoors and avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.

Things That Probably Don’t Cause cancer

Your Mobile Phones

Initially, there were many concerns about whether mobile phones can cause brain tumours because they are usually held near the head; thus, several studies have been conducted on this matter.

However, these various studies determined that mobile phone radiofrequency (RF) waves don’t have enough energy to damage DNA or heat body tissues directly. Most studies done in humans, with significant limitations, have found no link between mobile phone use and the development of cancer tumours.

Using Antiperspirants

Because antiperspirants and deodorants are applied near the breast and contain potentially harmful ingredients (e.g., aluminium-based compounds), some have suggested a link between using them and breast cancer.

While some studies have focused on the relation between aluminium-based compounds and breast cancer, other researchers shifted their attention to parabens (preservatives found in these types of products), as it was thought that they mimic estrogen activity, which is known to increase the risk of breast cancer.

However, all of these studies conducted to date have shown that there is no strong link between breast cancer and the use of antiperspirants.

Artificial Tea and Coffee Sweeteners

The sugar substitutes they people use in their tea and coffee were once thought to cause cancer after early studies showed that the combination of two sweeteners (cyclamate and saccharin) had been linked to bladder cancer in laboratory animals.

But further studies of those particular sweeteners and other US Federal Drug Administration–approved sweeteners found that there was no clear evidence of any association with bladder cancer or other cancers in humans.

Before the FDA in the United States approved any of these products for food use, it should be remembered that it reviewed more than 100 safety studies conducted for each one, including studies that assessed the risk of cancer and found no link.

The Last word

While there is no foolproof way to prevent cancer, certain risk factors increase the likelihood; but, you can take action to lower these risks through living a healthy lifestyle, getting the recommended regular cancer screenings and vaccinating against certain viruses. You can also relax knowing that there are many everyday products available that have no link to cancer.

About Cancer Pro

Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding all aspects of cancer, various cancer treatments and cancer prevention, please visit www.