The Link Between Cancer and Your Environment

Traffic is boring, it is painfully slow, but did you know that traffic also contributes to environmental conditions that increase the risk of getting cancer? When it comes to environmental factors, there are some obvious factors and others which might not be so obvious. These factors are frequently called “carcinogens.” Environmental carcinogens can come in all forms and from many different places. Awareness of the various possibilities of exposures begins by identifying where those carcinogens might be.

Traffic: While traffic is common in almost every city, there are a few exceptions to it which increase the risk to a person’s health. Smog, ground level ozone, and diesel fume particulates are carcinogens that can often lead to poor lung health and increase the risk for lung cancer. Pay particular attention to days where there is high humidity and high temperatures. This leads to increased ground-level ozone measurements. This ozone is generally not seen as toxic, but with the addition of smog to the ozone, lung health can be severely impacted. Depending on the geographic area of where a city is located, and the weather patterns, the smog levels can be particularly high, as air flow is stagnant.

Additionally, diesel engines produce diesel fume particulates, which include many byproducts. These byproducts are often carcinogenic to lung health and to other parts of the body. Studies have found that diesel fume particulates are also linked to such rare cancers such as glioblastoma multiforme, which is a fast-growing brain cancer. Good exposure avoidance begins with knowledge about good air movement and movement in general. Choose travel routes carefully, with the knowledge that a body in movement is the same as a city in movement. If driving is not going to get you where you need to go, consider alternative means of transportation. Public transit, carpooling, walking, biking, and by ferry are other ways to travel which can be invigorating.

The Workplace: While diesel fume particulates might be a potential exposure in some workplaces, such as the fire station, other professional workplaces carry some risk of environmental carcinogen. An old office building can often harbor microorganisms such as mold. These molds may often be benign, but some carry a risk. Some species of black mold that exist in office buildings often produce carcinogens called mycotoxins. These are byproducts that can cause a host of other effects including heart damage and infertility.

Ways to detect possible black mold is to identify when you exhibit certain respiratory symptoms when entering a building and being in it for a while. Do the symptoms fade away after leaving the building or during the weekend? Often, the diagnosis for something like this would be called Sick Building Syndrome. Traditional Western medicine gives it a name, but at the Salerno Center, we work to identify when your environment could be possibly causing your illnesses. These symptoms are important to identify and track, because if repeated, long-term exposure to mycotoxins continues, the risk for serious long-term damage to health, including cancer, increases.

Your Home: Many household chemicals can be thought of as carcinogenic, toxic to the body and to the replication of cells. Since cancer is the unregulated replication of cells, the dangers still exist in your home. While some household cleaners, if exposed to in great enough amounts, can be carcinogenic, it is also important to test your water. Public water supplies can be treated with harsh chemicals to get rid of dangerous microorganisms in the water supply. Public water systems also treat the water with fluoride as a means to increase overall dental health as a public health initiative. While further research is needed, there is some evidence that supports the idea that exposure to high amounts of fluoride can increase the risk for certain types of cancers.

Again, identification of hazardous chemicals in the house can be difficult, but it is a good way to reduce the potential for carcinogenic exposure. Using a water filter to filter out any heavy metals in your tap water can be a good solution for reducing exposure. Plants that are cared for and have healthy soil can also be contributors to good air quality in a home. Some plants can actually draw out toxins from the air and store it, thereby acting as natural air fresheners. Consider buying an ultraviolet light HEPA air filter to keep your air clean. The ultraviolet light eliminates dangerous airborne microorganisms, and the filter removes other chemicals that are suspended in the air.

While we stress the need to stay healthy and reduce exposure to carcinogens, in this day and age, it is difficult to do it 100%. However, if arming yourself with awareness of potential dangers can help you decide how to deal with it. Consider speaking to us at the Salerno Center to come up with innovative, integrative solutions to protecting your health.

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