1 – Consuming too much sugar
By now you’ve heard time and again how bad sugar is for you. It’s been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes—and now also cancer. According to a study done at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, high amounts of sugar in today’s Western diets may increase the risk of breast cancer. The study found that sugar levels in mice comparable with levels in Western diets led to increased tumor growth. “While done on mice, the researchers did try to make the study as close as possible to what happens in humans,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, owner of Active Eating Advice. “The mice were fed sugar in doses similar to what Americans eat daily and these mice were genetically predisposed to breast cancer.” The culprit appeared to be fructose, as it exacerbated the inflammatory process. Stick to natural sugar found in fruit and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, tabletop sweeteners, candy, and desserts. These are clear signs you’re eating too much sugar.
2 – Eating processed meats
We’re talking about meat that has been cured, salted, or smoked, mainly to help preserve it (read: cold cuts). The International Agency for Research on Cancer evaluated the carcinogenicity of processed meat and found it to be carcinogenic to humans based on evidence that eating it can cause colorectal cancer. They found that quarter-pound portion of this processed meat can up the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. The issue mainly seemed to be with the amount of meat consumed, which means that you don’t need to go cold-turkey vegan. But it’s smart to limit the amount of processed meats you consume, suggests Bonci. “Pick lean red meat instead, which is a great source of protein, iron, and zinc,” she says. Here are butchers’ secrets to picking the best meat and more advice for reducing your risk of colon cancer.
3 -Alcohol Use and Cancer
Most people know that heavy alcohol drinking can cause health problems. But many people might not know that drinking alcohol can raise their cancer risk.
Ethanol is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, whether they are beers, wines, or liquors (distilled spirits). These drinks contain different percentages of ethanol, but in general a standard size drink of any type — 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor — contains about the same amount of ethanol (about half an ounce). Of course, larger or ‘stronger’ drinks can contain more ethanol than this.
Overall, the amount of alcohol consumed over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage, seems to be the most important factor in raising cancer risk. Most evidence suggests that it is the ethanol that increases the risk, not other things in the drink.
4 – Working the night shift
While more research still needs to be done on the topic, some studies have linked circadian-disruption from working nights (and therefore having possible sleep issues) with increased cancer risk. “I think a lot has to do with decreased immunity and low level inflammation,” says Sandra Lombardo, MD, general oncologist in New Milford, Connecticut. Though you can’t always choose your shift, it might be safe to pick days if you have the option.
5 – Being sedentary
Those living a sedentary lifestyle may need to step up their game—literally. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, physical inactivity has been linked to cardiovascular disease, obesity and, you guessed it, cancer. The relationship between total time sitting and increased cancer risk was proven. Be sure you’re moving daily, as exercise is extremely important. “It brings more oxygen and blood flow to the muscles and organs, which increases cell turnover, and optimizes waste removal,” says Michelle Yagoda, MD, otolaryngologist in New York City, who completed a six-month fellowship including research in head and neck cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. A sedentary lifestyle robs the body of this important jolt to daily maintenance
6 – Living overweight
It goes along with being sedentary, but as the obesity rates continue to rise in America, it’s something more and more people need to be aware of. According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity has been associated with increased risks of esophagus, pancreas, colon and rectum, breast, kidney, and thyroid cancer, just to name a few. “In overweight women especially, fat cells can increase estrogen levels, increasing risk of endometrial and breast cancer,” explains Lombardo. Numerous studies have also found hormonal and inflammatory links between obesity and cancer. Don’t be sedentary, for one. Try to exercise daily and keep your diet in check. These are 7 cancers you can prevent just by exercising.
7 – Taking supplements in excess
More isn’t always better—especially when it comes to dietary supplements. A study done last year found that excessive use of dietary supplements was linked to increased cancer risk. The study done at the University of Colorado Cancer Center found that when these over-the-counter supplements were taken in excess of the recommended amounts, they could actually increase cancer risk. “Supplements are supposed to be used to correct a deficit, not if someone’s micronutrient levels are normal,” says Bonci. Be aware of all the supplements you take and the recommended dosage. “If the amount of any of those is more than 100 to 250 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake, cut back,” suggests Bonci. This is what doctors tell their friends about which vitamins to take.
8 – Canned Goods:
Most cans are lined with a product called bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been shown to genetically alter the brain cells of rats. Many plastic goods, thermal paper, water lines, and many dental composites also contain BPA. Stick to fresh or frozen vegetables that have no added ingredients for your family’s table! These are better for you and available year-round.
9 – Grilled Red Meat:
While grilled food can taste delicious, scientists have discovered that preparing meats in this way – especially processed meats like hot dogs – releases a carcinogen called heterocyclic aromatic amines. When you grill red meat to the point of well-done, it changes the chemical and molecular structure of the meat. You’re better off baking, broiling, or preparing meat in a skillet than on the grill.
10– Soda and Carbonated Beverages:
Sodas have been at the center of the health debate for two decades as a major cancer causing food. Filled with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dyes, and a host of other chemicals, they are very bad for every aspect of your health. They provide zero nutritional value and rob your body of the nutrients you get from other foods. Adding “diet” to the label means you’re also likely consuming aspartame – which is no better than rat poison to human cells.
11– White Flour:
When flour is refined, all nutritional value is removed. Then it’s bleached with chlorine gas to make it more appealing to consumers. The glycemic index for white flour is very high – meaning it spikes your insulin levels without providing nutritional fuel. Carbohydrates are converted to sugars by your body, so excessive products that contain white flour can lead to increased insulin resistance. Simple sugars (like refined carbohydrates) are the preferred fuel source for cancer.
12- Hydrogenated Oils:
Vegetable oils are chemically extracted from their source, chemically treated, and more chemicals are added to change the smell and taste. They’re packed with unhealthy omega-6 fats (that Americans already consume way too much of) and have been proven to alter the structure of our cell membranes.