Avoid Environmental Carcinogens
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 Are Environmental Factors that Cause Cancer?
- 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
- exposure to environmental carcinogens and pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde.
What is a Carcinogen?
A cancer causing agent or 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 that 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.
Occupational Carcinogens in SA
Occupation related cancer exists in air pollution, UV radiation and indoor radon.
Individuals in the South African workplace are protected by staunch legislation including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the South African Hazardous Substances Act, as well as The Asturias Declaration.
The South African Institute for Occupational Health also helps in informing and advising workers about safe and healthy working environments.
Being mindful of workplace health hazards, is the first step in ensuring that a healthy environment is created for all.
The most common examples of chemicals and compounds found in South African employment arenas, include:
- asphalt fumes (coal tar pitch): – road tar workers
- benzene: workers who work with petrochemical compounds such as diesel fumes
- hexavalent chromium: workers who work with compounds including electroplating, welding, and chromate painting
- formaldehyde: workers in synthetic chemical industries and in beauty salons
- coke oven emissions: workers in the steel industry
Other Industrial Pollution
- 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
- Tetrachloroethylene: used in dry cleaning industry, to clean metal machinery, manufacture certain products and chemicals
- 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; girls to partake in HPV Vaccine Programme and women to 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…
- Personal Care Products – check for harmful chemicals – read more…
Read more about the benefits of improving your lifestyle – a balanced lifestyle is the key to health…
CANSA’s Type B Research 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 choices with regards to lifestyle-related risk factors, eg. tobacco use, diet, physical activity, sunsmart behavior and regular cancer screening.
- research on possible environmental carcinogens and pollutants
- research to screen and evaluate products, and where appropriate, award these with the CANSA ‘Smart Choice’ Seal of Recognition – to indicate that these products may help to reduce the risk of cancer, in conjunction with other positive lifestyle choices
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