Cancer is predominantly caused by environmental factors, rather than inherent biological factors. Importantly, it is possible to reduce exposure to many of these risk factors.
What exactly do we mean by environmental factors? This includes infectious agents such as Human Papilloma Virus, Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus, lifestyle-related risk factors such as tobacco use, diet, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and sun exposure, as well as exposure to environmental carcinogens and pollutants such as benzene and formaldehyde.
A cancer causing agent / factor is officially known as a carcinogen. Carcinogens attack the DNA of the cell, causing mutations. This can cause cells to divide or multiply out of control. These cancer cells multiply and grow into a lump or tumour and can spread to other parts of the body.
Your risk of getting cancer increases the more you are exposed to a carcinogen. It is important to be aware of the different carcinogens and avoid or limit exposure to them in order to reduce your risk of getting cancer.
- Asbestos – identify and avoid asbestos areas and products where they still exist
- Cadmium ore – avoid mining area sludge and contaminated water, dispose of batteries safely
- Uranium ore – do not drink or swim in contaminated mine water
- Asphalt fumes (coal tar pitch): road tar workers
- Benzene: workers working with petrochemical compounds, such as diesel fumes
- Hexavalent chromium: workers working with compounds including electroplating, welding, and chromate painting
- Formaldehyde: workers working in the synthetic chemical industries and in beauty salons
- Coke oven emissions: workers at steel industries
- Acrylamide – limit potato crisp intake, especially for children
- Plasticisers – Use plasticiser-free clingwrap
- Bisphenol A – avoid plastic that has a triangle with a number 7 in the centre and a PC indicated at the bottom, especially for baby feeding bottles – download the ‘Plastic Identification Codes’ list (supplied by Plastics|SA)
- Transfats – avoid food with more than 2% transfatty acid like confectionary and processed foods. Only use margarines with less than 2% transfats – Canola Blossom Magarine is a Smart Choice
- Motor vechicle exhaust fumes – avoid inhalation of fumes
For more information regarding industrial and man-made environmental carcinogens read CANSA’s Position Statements and Fact Sheets…
Lifestyle Risk Factors:
- Tobacco – Don’t use any tobacco products including hookah pipes and e- cigarettes. Try also to avoid second-hand smoke. All tobacco products are harmful to health. CANSA assists and encourages quitting tobacco use, via its online CANSA eKick Butt Programme.
- Smoke from open fires – avoid direct smoke, ensure adequate ventilation
- Hepatitis B Virus – adhere to childhood, as well as adult vaccination programmes – read more…
- Human Papilloma Virus – vaccinate children; women to partake in HPV Vaccine Programme and have regular Pap smears – read more…
- UVA and B radiation – be SunSmart, protect yourself against excessive exposure. Stay safe in the sun, excessive ultraviolet exposure may cause skin cancer. Avoid the use of sunbeds and self-tanning products that contain melanotan. Look out for the CANSA Smart Choice and CANSA SunSmart products.
- Obesity – regulate food intake and exercise regularly
- Diet – eat a balanced, mainly plant based diet
- Water – drink clean (uncontaminated), safe, fresh water
- Alcohol – limit or avoid alcohol consumption – read more…
Read more about the benefits of improving your lifestyle – a balanced lifestyle is the key to health…
CANSA’s Type B Projects:
Our type B research projects are largely initiated, conceptualized and conducted by CANSA, although this may be in conjunction with other institutions. These projects focus on looking at ways to reduce public exposure to environmental carcinogens. This is achieved through conducting:
- research that provides us with greater understanding on how to encourage and facilitate positive behavior change in terms of lifestyle-related environmental risk factors choices eg. Tobacco use, diet, physical activity, sun behavior and screening attendance
- research on possible environmental carcinogens and pollutants
- research to screen and evaluate products and where appropriate award these with the CANSA ‘Smart Choice’ seal – to indicate that these products may help to reduce the risk of cancer, in conjunction with other lifestyle choices
The results of these projects are made available to the public through our website, health campaigns, brochures and fact sheets. They are also used for advocacy activities and to lobby government and industry for change where necessary.
Links to CANSA Position Statements:
- Hydraulic fracturing
- Vaccines and vaccination
- CANSA recommended diet
Links to CANSA Fact Sheets:
- Known causes of cancer
- Balanced Lifestyle
- Being sunsmart
- Obesity and Cancer
Read more about the CANSA SunSmart and Smart Choice Seal of Recognition