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Cancer Awareness Environment Prevention

February: National Cancer Prevention Month

4 years, 1 month ago

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Posted on Feb 01, 2020, 3 p.m.

In some cases, cancer is the combination of a variety of factors, in others, it can be attributed to genetics or a specific carcinogen. Regardless, there are preventative measures one can take to reduce the chances of a cancer diagnosis. National Cancer Prevention Month is recognized throughout February, and identifying what leads to cancer could mean all the difference for your health.

Human carcinogens are substances that are known to cause cancer. This does not indicate that contact with a carcinogen always results in cancer, however, exposure does increase the likelihood of diagnosis. The American Cancer Society points out that “[s]ome [substances] may only be carcinogenic if a person is exposed in a certain way (for example, swallowing it as opposed to touching it),” other times “in people who have a certain genetic makeup [or] after only a very small exposure, while others might require intense exposure over many years.”

Tobacco is a common carcinogen that is not only a risk for smokers but for those who are exposed to second-hand smoke. According to the National Cancer Institute, “tobacco products and secondhand smoke have many chemicals that damage DNA.” This substance also happens to be one that causes cancer even at small levels. The types of cancer tied to tobacco use are “lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.”

Though regulations have greatly limited exposure, asbestos is a carcinogen found in a variety of products, affecting many communities and occupations. Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that if disturbed, may be inhaled or ingested. If this happens, the fibers can become “embedded in organ linings,” provoking “irritation and mutation of the mesothelioma cells, leading to the development of mesothelioma cancer.”

Lung cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the U.S., with a little over 2 million cases in 2018 alone. While there are elements that contribute to this cancer, radon stands as the number one reason for diagnosis. The Environmental Protection Agency notes that “[r]adon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer [and] is inert, colorless and odorless.” Radon is found in homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. This gas is present in trace amounts outside, but if given the chance to concentrate inside, or anywhere someone may be trapped inhaling it over long durations, it becomes a threat.

Cancer is not entirely avoidable, as roughly “420 known or likely carcinogens have been measured in” the human body from “a diverse array of populations.” Further research proves that lifestyle choices can affect your chances of a cancer diagnosis too.

Prevention starts with being proactive. Understanding your family health history, scheduling annual doctor visits, and planning screening tests can all help to better protect yourself. Exercise and cardiovascular wellness are also critical to prevention. Vaccines and awareness of bodily changes and symptoms also help. While cancer is unpredictable, you can promote your health and raise awareness which will prolong malignant tumor development.

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