Despite the cancer epidemic, there’s no definite list of all the things that can cause this disease. The National Cancer Institute notes that around 39.6 percent of men and women will have a cancer diagnosis at a specific point in their lives.
Research notes that genetics is responsible for around 50 percent of all cancers. Other contributing factors are environmental and socioeconomic.
As cancer is one of the leading causes of death globally, it’s vital to know as many associated risks as possible to reduce the risk of this disease.
Some of the most obvious reasons for cancer are poor diet, obesity, chronic inflammation, and hormonal imbalance; however, there are plenty of other causes that aren’t so straightforward.
Below, check out 11 unexpected causes of cancer.
11 Unexpected Causes of Cancer
IARC classifies wood dust as a human carcinogen.
In one study, a group of furniture workers and other workers exposed to wood dust were followed closely. The risk of them developing nasal cancer known as adenocarcinoma was higher in those exposed to wood dust.
Hardwood dusts like beech and oak are the riskiest. Limiting exposure to wood dust via proper ventilation systems or using protective gear is crucial.
In a study done in Denmark in 2016, higher alcohol consumption was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
The women in the study who increased the alcohol amount they consumed over five years experienced a higher risk of breast cancer.
The same study also discovered a lower risk of cardiovascular disease in the women who drank alcohol more.
The good news is that there are much safer and healthier ways to reduce your risk of heart problems such as a healthy and balanced diet, stress management, and regular physical activity.
- Scented candles and air fresheners
In one research, the levels of volatile organic chemicals in six houses in York, England were measured over five days.
Each of the residents was asked to write down the cleaning products, scented candles, and air fresheners that they used and how often.
After testing the air in each home, limonene, a synthetic chemical used for the creation of a citrus smell, was found to be the major culprit.
And, the houses that used the most scented products also had the highest levels of limonene.
When limonene goes into the air, it reacts with ozone and forms formaldehyde which has been associated with nasopharyngeal cancer and myeloid leukemia.
- The place where you live
A 2017 study from the Cancer Journal discovered that the states in the US with the highest level of poor air, water, land, built environment, and sociodemographic factors had a higher risk of cancer.
These findings applied to both men and women. Prostate and breast cancers were the two most frequently associated cancers with poor environment.
- Burned food
Acrylamide is a chemical that’s formed in starchy foods when you cook them at a higher temperature. Cooking starchy foods above 248 degrees F appears to cause the formation of acrylamide which has been linked with DNA damage and cancer in lab animals.
Acrylamide is listed as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. However, eating foods with acrylamide hasn’t been directly associated with a higher risk of cancer in humans.
In addition to acrylamide, burned meat is also an issue. Avoid store-bought marinades with high levels of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup because they may triple the amount of HCAs which are toxic and carcinogenic compounds.
- Sedentary lifestyle
In a 2014 analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a sedentary lifestyle was associated with a higher risk of endometrial, lung, and colon cancer.
The risk of cancer increased with every two-hour increase in the sitting period.
- Night shifts
Around 15 percent of Americans work a night shift.
Unfortunately, working at night has been associated with a higher risk of cancer in some individuals. In a study with mice, MIT researchers concluded that night shifts mess up the natural circadian rhythm of the body.
They also found that two genes linked with the circadian rhythm also act as tumor suppressors.
The mice in the study that were exposed to abnormal lighting had quicker and more aggressive tumor growth.
- Bacteria and viruses
Viruses like HIV and Epstein-Barr have been linked to cancer in various studies. According to researchers, 95 percent of the population gets the EBV virus by adulthood.
Also known as mononucleosis or the kissing disease, most of the infections with this virus aren’t noticeable, even when they’re active in the body.
This virus may stay dormant or get triggered by exposure to pesticides or mold, injuries, exposure to heavy metals, mental trauma, nutritional deficiencies, etc.
In a study from 2016, researchers found that breast cells attached to the EBV and formed an aggressive cancer.
They concluded that EBV may elevate the risk of malignant breast tumors. People with HIV may have a higher risk of cervical cancer, non-Hodgkin’s, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
- Insufficient sunlight
Researchers from the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California in San Diego note that around 250,000 colorectal cancer cases and 350,000 breast cancer cases may be averted by elevating the levels of vitamin D3.
The team tested the link between vitamin D and cancer with satellite measurements of the sun and cloud cover. They took that information and also measured the blood serum levels of vitamin D3.
The conclusion was that there’s an inverse connection between the risk of colorectal and breast cancer and vitamin D. That is, the less vitamin D one has, the higher the risk of these types of cancer.
Excessive sunlight exposure is harmful, but proper exposure to sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D.
Overusing poor quality sunscreen or the wrong sunscreen carries its risks. Benzophenone-3 is a common ingredient found in sunscreens and produces free radicals associated with DNA damage and cancer growth.
This is why you need to be cautious about the ingredients in the sunscreen you and your family are using. The FDA hasn’t banned this ingredient. They have only limited it to 6 percent.
- Packaging for food
Food packaging like boxes and wrappers with perfluorinated chemicals may increase your risk of cancer.
Known as PFCs and PFASs, these linings from the food packaging can leech into food. In addition to being linked to cancer, they have also been associated with development issues, reproductive problems, impaired immunity, etc.