World Cancer Day is observed on February 4, aiming towards informing and educating people about cancer, its prevention, early detection, and treatment. It is a global uniting initiative led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), built to create a global awareness, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease to save millions of preventable deaths every year due to this fatal condition.
This year, i.e., 2023 is the ultimate year of the three-year long “I Am and I Will’ campaign that counters the negative attitude and fatalistic belief that nothing can be done about cancer and instead shows us that our personal actions can be powerful and have an impact on everyone around us, within our neighbourhoods, communities and cities. This year is a reminder of the enduring power of cooperation and collective action and that our actions however big or small can make a lasting positive change.
Cancer is an umbrella term that comprises of more than 100 types of cancers affecting different parts of the body. Several studies resurface that it usually stems from genetic mutation in the DNA that causes uncontrolled growth and division of healthy cells without dying on time. This causes them to band up together to form tumorous structures in the affected area leading to a form of carcinoma.
Though this fatal condition is studied and researched worldwide, yet the exact cause of it is yet to be discovered. However, one of the most common cause that might aggravate the chances of getting diagnosed with cancer is a Carcinogen. Let us foray through this article to know what is a carcinogen and the different types of carcinogens that occur naturally in nature.
Wondering, What Is A Carcinogen?
A carcinogen is a substance or factor that can lead to cancer. It can be as common as a product you use, some substance in the air, a chemical in the food, medical or environmental radiation, some viruses, medications or even lifestyle factors. While many cancers are caused by a carcinogen or a combination of carcinogens, it is not always necessary that if you are exposed to a carcinogen, you are likely to develop cancer. The tendency to develop cancer depends upon many factors like the amount of exposure, the length of exposure, the overall health of the individual, or their genetic predisposition.
The carcinogens work in two ways. It either directly damages the genetic code or the DNA within the cells causing them to grow and divide abnormally or the carcinogen may result in extreme damage or inflammation of the cell causing the cells to divide more rapidly and aggravating the chances of getting diagnosed with cancer.
Well, we may not realize but throughout the day, we are surrounded by many carcinogens, be it at work, home or outdoors. But worry not, as we bring you some universal types of carcinogens that you should avoid reducing the chances of getting cancer.
Common Types Of Carcinogens
Substances: Certain products used at home or at the workplace can be carcinogenic. For example, the tiny fibres in Asbestos that are used to make or strengthen roof shingles, ceiling tiles, or car parts. If these fibres break apart and you breathe them in, they actively get lodged inside the lungs increasing your chances of getting lung cancer or mesothelioma.
Wear protective gear to prevent yourself from asbestos exposure if you are handling them regularly at work.
Chemicals: Chemicals like formaldehyde that are used in many household products like fabrics or plywood which is painted freshly may contain this chemical. Breathing it regularly aggravates the chances of cancer.
Ensure you keep the furniture painted with formaldehyde at a low humidity level within the house or air out the house regularly to remove the smell.
Environmental Radiation: The UVA and UVB rays from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds are extremely harmful and can cause skin cancer or other forms of melanoma. Even radon that gets emitted due to the normal decay of uranium in the soil can get trapped inside the house and be another cause of lung cancer.
To prevent UV radiation, protect your skin with high SPF sunscreen, wear sunglasses or hats, and avoid tanning salons.
Medical Radiation: The radiations used for diagnostic process or for treating other forms of cancer are also carcinogenic in nature and pose a threat of cancer of other parts in the later stages.
Viruses: Certain microorganisms and viruses such as human papillomaviruses (HPV) or Hepatitis C virus are considered living carcinogens and can eventually lead to oral cancer, cervical cancer or lung cancer respectively.
Medications: Certain medicines or drugs that are used for chemotherapy or hormonal therapy for treating some form of cancer can ultimately cause other types of cancer in later stages. For example, chemotherapy medicines used to treat breast cancer can pose of a risk of leukemia or long-term use of oral contraceptives without doctor’s recommendation can cause breast cancer.
Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle habits like smoking or taking any form of tobacco or addiction of alcohol can cause genetic mutation and eventually lead to throat cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer etc.
Gradually limit and quit the use of tobacco or alcohol to reduce the odds of getting cancer.
Unhealthy Diet: A diet full of roasted, fermented, smoked or deep-fried foods or too much of processed meat can also be a secondary causative factor of colon cancer, gall-bladder cancer etc.
To prevent this, have a well-balanced diet and try including fresh veggies, and seasonal fruits and cut down consumption of crispy, brown foods and processed meat.
Pollution: The air we are breathing is extremely polluted being full of carcinogens in the form of exhaust fumes, suspended trace metals and solvents that are a major cause of different forms of cancer in today’s time.
Although, we cannot avoid pollution, but we can do our bit by opting for using a bicycle or walking instead of driving cars or bikes.
Additional Carcinogenic Compound
The exhaust fumes from diesel-run trucks, buses, trains, and even some cars are extremely dangerous. Over 30 elements of diesel oil are noted at various levels of the carcinogenic compound list by the IARC. Scientific studies show that the gas and soot in diesel engine exhaust can cause lung cancer and other types of cancer.
Hence, it is pivotal to avoid idling in traffic or spending time next to diesel-run vehicles. In the case where being close to diesel is a part of your job, strictly follow workplace safety guidelines to safeguard your health at all times.
Though a primary source of thermal energy, coal is one of the most noted carcinogens due to the higher incidence of cancer in miners. Indoor combustion of coal for heating or cooking yields particulate and gas containing a plethora of harmful chemicals, such as carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Continuous exposure to such fumes without the presence of normal air can be fatal, leading to lung cancer and sometimes even death.
Avoid burning coal in closed environments, and use well-ventilated places while cooking with Coal.
People involved in mining hematite, an underground source of iron, are continuously exposed to radon – a radioactive carcinogen which significantly aggravates the risk of lung cancer. Radon also occurs in small amounts in nature, where it's usually harmless. But, if it builds up indoors and you inhale it in large quantities, it can easily break down the lining of the lungs, leading to several lung infections and even cancer.
Use protective covering while working in hematite mining areas or places with a higher concentration of radon.
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