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World Cancer Day 2022: 10 Dangerous Habits That May Cause Cancer

World Cancer Day is observed every year on 4 February. It is a global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC). The theme for World Cancer Day 2022 is Close The Care Gap. World Cancer Day was established on 4 February 2000 at the World Cancer Summit Against Cancer for the New Millenium.

In 2016, World Cancer Day initiated a three-year campaign under the tagline of 'We can. I can.', which explored the power of collective and individual actions to reduce the impact of cancer. At least 60 governments officially observe World Cancer Day.

A group of more than 100 different diseases, cancer is one of the most severe health conditions. Cancer begins when the genetic changes interfere with the orderly process of cell division in your body and cause the cells to grow uncontrollably and develops a mass called a tumour.

A tumour can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous tumour is malignant, meaning it can grow and spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumour means the tumour can grow but will not spread. Some types of cancer do not form a tumour. These include leukaemias, most types of lymphoma, and myeloma [1].

The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and it is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024 [2]. Cancer is such a disease that has led to many deaths worldwide, and the number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades [3].

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in recent years. Around one-third of deaths from cancer are due to certain behavioural and dietary risks, which include a high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco and too much alcohol [4][5].

Let us have a look at some of the dangerous habits that can cause cancer apart from smoking - as we all know the way this habit can affect your overall health and increase the risk of cancer.


1. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Alcohol consumption has been shown to increase cancer risk. Several studies have pointed out that drinking alcohol twice a day can increase the risk of oesophagus cancer, colon cancer, rectum cancer and breast cancer [6]. Alcohol promotes the production of stomach acids that can harm the lining of the gastrointestinal tract as well [7].


2. Using Air Fresheners

Air fresheners have become essential home-care products and have replaced good old cleaning routines and traditional potpourris. These air fresheners do not improve the quality of air in any way, they just mask the foul odour, giving you a false sense of sanitation. They contain harmful cancer-causing substances that enter through the nostrils when you spray it around you and increase the risk of cancer [8][9].


3. Exposure To Car Fumes

People who are regularly exposed to diesel fuels (drivers, mechanics etc.) have a high risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory ailments. Diesel and petrol (gasoline) release toxic carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, including benzene [10].


4. Eating Burnt Food

When you grill food items like fish, chicken and meat, they become slightly burnt and some areas become blackened. Though this gives a smoky flavour, the compounds such as heterocyclic amines and so-called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can increase the risk of stomach, colon and pancreatic cancers [11].


5. Eating Canned Foods

Canned foods are unhealthy and dangerous because the foods are sealed in metal containers lined with a plastic coating that is full of harmful chemicals. These canned foods when consumed leads to hormonal disturbances and DNA changes that can increase the risk of breast cancer [12].


6. Drinking Diet Soda

Recent studies have pointed out that many of the common soda brands contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a known animal carcinogen [13]. Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners that have been linked to increasing pancreatic cancer and other types of cancers. Several studies have shown that diet soda also leads to bladder cancer and brain tumours [14][15].


7. Using Sunscreen

To prevent skin cancer and other skin damages, most people use sunscreen. But you will be shocked to know that sunscreens contain an ingredient called zinc oxide, which is known to produce free radicals that can cause DNA damage and trigger cancer cell growth [16].


8. Using Scented Candles

Recent studies have said that the fumes released from paraffin wax contain carcinogens and other fossil fuel components [17]. The paraffin wax candles may pose to be a killer if you regularly go for candle-lit dinners. Instead, burn pure beeswax candles, as it will not damage your body [18]. Burning incense can also trigger cancer risk.


9. Engaging In Oral Sex

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, it was reported that the rising rate of oropharyngeal cancers is caused by HPV infection acquired from oral to genital contact [19]. The study also pointed out that having six or more oral sex partners can increase the risk.


10. Working The Night Shift

Yes, this too can increase the risk of cancer. According to the study published in the British Medical Journal, working the graveyard shift can increase a person's risk of breast cancer, most likely due to melatonin suppression [20].


On A Final Note…

Sipping on a glass of coke or eating a small piece of burnt food will not trigger the risk of cancer in you but, regular and constant practise of these habits pose a risk to your overall health.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What foods increase cancer risk?

A. Foods such as red meat (pork, beef, veal, and lamb) and processed meat (bacon, ham, lunch meats, meat jerky, hot dogs, salami, and other cured meat products). Any amount of processed meat and more than around 18 ounces of fresh meat per week are strongly linked with a higher risk of cancer.

Q. What are the top 10 causes of cancer?

A. Some of the most common causes include tobacco use including cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, being overweight or obese, unhealthy diet with low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol use, sexually transmitted HPV-infection, infection by hepatitis or other carcinogenic infections, ionizing and ultraviolet radiation, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.

Q. Are bananas good for cancer?

A. Yes. Bananas can be a great dietary addition for those recovering from cancer.

Q. Does sugar feed cancer cells?

A. No. Sugar doesn't make cancer grow faster. All cells, including cancer cells, depend on blood sugar (glucose) for energy. But giving more sugar to cancer cells doesn't speed their growth.

Q. Can cancer be cured completely?

A. There is currently no cure for cancer. However, successful treatment can result in cancer going into remission and treating the symptoms.

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