Suspected Carcinogens

Suspected Carcinogens


The last thing anyone wants is cancer. However, in order to stay clear of cancer, it’s helpful to know the things that cause it – so that you can avoid them… Unfortunately, the way our society is setup, there is a good chance we will never really know everything that can give us cancer. But, at least we can share what we know! Here are some suspected carcinogens to be wary of.

There are so many elements, products, and stuff floating around in our society today with carcinogenic properties (or the likely potential of them) that it’s kind of unnerving if you look at everything. Of course, you have to be willing to sit down and do your own investigative research, because there’s always someone out there with a beef with something that will say it’s cancer-causing. Some of the ones we are very well aware of are things like asbestos, cigarettes, and coal gasification.

Well, that’s great and all – but what about everyday things we’ve never even heard of or wouldn’t recognize on an ingredient list? This would be why the American Cancer Society (ACS) is always looking into suspected carcinogens. Sadly, though, research – if done at all – is often delayed until the chemical, ingredient, or lifestyle changing option is already a block in our society and a productive member of our economy.

An article posted on AOL news (with Katie Drummond contributing) warns us to watch out for low-profile potential cancer-causers lurking about in our everyday environments such as the five listed below:

  1. Styrene
    Styrene and its chemical compound colleague styrene-7,-8-oxide, threaten to be a stoner’s worst nightmare. Although only weakly linked to cancer in humans, there is enough evidence in animal studies to earn the compound a spot in the top 20.
    Where will you find it? Cigarettes, marijuana, and leeching into your midnight munchies via foam food packaging. (As if you didn’t have enough reasons to not use any of those things…)
    How can you avoid it? If you eat, this is one urine test you’re doomed to fail. Styrene was detected in the urine of 87 percent of study participants during a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention trial last year.
  2. Tetrachloroethylene
    Also known as PCE or PERC, this chemical compound is used in everything from heavy industry to dry cleaning. It’s already been shown to cause liver cancer and leukemia in rats and epidemiological studies have linked it to esophageal and cervical cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
    Where will you find it? The local dry-cleaner, metal finishing plants, and your favorite taxidermy shop (PCE is used to coat the animal fur).
    How can you avoid it? Apartments located above dry-cleaning shops have elevated levels of PCE in the air. As does your great uncle’s stuffed-deer infested apartment.
  3. Titanium Dioxide
    One of the least well-studied of the bunch, titanium dioxide has only been the subject of three human studies as to carcinogenic effect. But it’s been established as a cancer-causing agent in several animal studies, leading the ACS to peg it as a “possible carcinogen in humans.”
    Where will you find it? Mostly in manufacturing facilities, where workers breathe it in. But it’s also an ingredient in “cosmetics, paints, varnishes, lacquers, paper, plastics, ceramics, rubber, or printing ink.”
    How can you avoid it? That depends on the value you assign your looks. “There is conflicting evidence as to whether nanoparticles of titanium dioxide can pass through the skin,” the report reads. “If they can, the presence of titanium dioxide in a large variety of cosmetic powders and creams may be a cause of concern.”
  4. Diesel Exhaust
    The odorous fumes have been linked to lung cancer in a myriad of animal studies and a few small evaluations of truck drivers and others in the automotive industry. But because diesel exhaust is absolutely everywhere, and confounding factors (smoking, lifestyle) are tough to eliminate, more research is necessary.
    Where will you find it? Everywhere, all of the time, in every city across the country. As the report notes, exhaust is “ubiquitous in urban areas, with substantial exposure to those who commute on highways for years.”
    How can you avoid it? Pack up and relocate to Michigan, where Mackinac Island, “the motorless city,” has been a car-free utopia since 1898.
  5. Shift Work
    The only non-tangible to make the top 20, shift work has been linked to cancer in a series of studies – but science has yet to make a definitive connection. The culprit is thought to be interference with biological circadian rhythms, wherein humans are exposed to light during periods of darkness. A 2007 study in the Lancet noted that shift work “involves circadian disruption [that] is probably carcinogenic to humans.”
    Where will you find it? At all-night grocery stores, hospitals, factories, and homes with newborns across the country. An estimated 15 percent of us are earning our keep doing shift work, according to estimates in the ACS report.
    How can you avoid it? Not easily, if your livelihood depends on it, though it does give new meaning to “Don’t quit your day job.”

What were the other 15 carcinogens? The ACS listed these other 15 (along with the five listed above) as suspected cancer-causers that they would like to see studied more extensively:

  1. Lead and lead compounds
  2. Indium phosphide
  3. Cobalt with tungsten carbide
  4. Welding fumes
  5. Refractory ceramic fibers
  6. Carbon black
  7. Propylene oxide
  8. Formaldehyde
  9. Acetaldehyde
  10. Dichloromethane, methylene chloride (DCM)
  11. Trichloroethylene (TCE)
  12. Chloroform
  13. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  14. Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP)
  15. Atrazine

According to Elizabeth Ward, Ph. D., vice president, Surveillance and Health Policy Research at the ACS and lead author of the above noted report, “There is significant concern among the public about substances or exposures in the environment that may cause cancer, and there are some common occupational agents and exposure circumstances where evidence of carcinogenicity is substantial but not yet conclusive for humans.” [see full report here]

So, what’s a person to do? The best you can. Keep well informed and avoid things you know to be hazardous to your health. One good rule of thumb to go by is this: If you can’t pronounce the word on the ingredient list or don’t recognize it, consider leaving it on the shelf. And, when it comes to food, you can live by the theory health founder Victor Earl Irons touted, “Don’t eat food unless it rots, but eat it before it does.”

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