4 Odd Things That Raise Your Risk of Cancer (and 1 That Doesn’t)

4 things that cause cancer | Sunrise oncology

4 Odd Things That Raise Your Risk of Cancer (and 1 That Doesn’t)

Avoid smoking and tobacco products, eat healthily, get screened for hereditary cancers and vaccinated for HPV — These are common enough things to avoid to prevent cancer. But, some things that can cause cancer get a lot less attention! 

Dr Ashay Karpe, Medical oncologist and Haematologist, Sunrise Oncology Centre says, “Common things that cause cancer are tobacco and tobacco-related products. So anything like chewing tobacco, gutkha, smoking beedis or cigarette, are leading factors for cancer. Drinking alcohol is also associated with about ten to fifteen odd cancers. Apart from that, people working in chemical factories, who inhale a lot of chemical fumes are also at risk of developing cancer. Apart from that preservatives, artificial colours, pesticides on fruits and vegetables could also cause cancer, although there isn’t much evidence to prove the same.” 

Here are four odd things that could increase your risk of developing cancer and one that doesn’t:

1.      Sitting for long periods

Sitting still sedentary lifestyle| Sunrise oncology center

Get moving! There are several studies that there’s strong evidence between higher physical activity and lowered risk of several types of cancer[1-2], including bladder cancer [3], breast cancer [4], colon cancer [5], endometrial cancer [6], Oesophageal cancer [7], Renal cancer [8] and stomach cancer [9].

Research has also suggested that merely staying active can help reduce your cancer risk by seven per cent.

Apart from that, a sedentary lifestyle also doubles your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. It also increases your risk of high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.

Experts suggest getting up from your desk and walking every 20 minutes of sitting down. Walking, joining an online fitness class or even making a commitment to staying active for at least 30 minutes a day can go a long way in helping you stay healthy.

Also read: Top 10 myths about cancer, busted

2.Smoke from a fire or grill (sitting close to a fire, inhaling smoke)

Smoke from a fire | Sunrise Oncology Center

Sitting too close to a fire or grill can increase your risk of cancer. This is because your skin absorbs an increased amount of chemicals such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) – these chemicals are released when wood or charcoal is burnt and are known carcinogens.

The exciting thing about this finding is that PAHs are primarily absorbed by your skin and not absorbed as much when you inhale the smoke. So, merely covering yourself up while sitting close to a fire could help reduce your risk of cancer.

Also read:

3. Your weekend drink

Drinking alcohol | Sunrise Oncology Centre

Cheers! Raising a toast to good health may be the greatest oxymoron there ever was. A study found that five per cent of new cancer cases annually worldwide and six percent of yearly cancer deaths were directly linked to drinking alcohol. 

Alcohol is linked to breast, colorectal, oesophageal and liver cancers. Although heavy drinking is often linked to higher cancer risk, studies have found that drinking even light or moderate amounts of alcohol may increase your risk of cancer.

Research has found that the breakdown of alcohol leads to the release of certain chemicals that lead to the damage of the DNA of stem cells of the blood, leading to cancer[12].

4. Your weight

Being over weight | Sunrise Oncology center

A study has found that being obese increases the risk of more than a dozen cancers. People who were overweight faced almost double the risk of oesophageal, stomach, liver and kidney cancer.

The study stated that overweight people have a higher amount of inflammation, which increases their cancer risk. Higher levels of hormones have also been linked to cell growth, increasing one’s cancer risk.

Dr Ashay Karpe, says, “Some common myths are that boosting your immunity or following some form of alternative therapy can help cure cancer. While eating a healthy diet and improving your immunity can help, one cannot rely on these therapies to treat or cure cancer. Another myth is to keep cancer patients isolated from the rest of the family – unless done to protect the patient’s health, this is not helpful at all and can be detrimental. Apart from that, people also believe that the lack of certain vitamins can cause cancer too.”

“Another myth is the fact that chemotherapy and radiation therapy can do more harm than good. Which is completely false and people should not discontinue treatment due to these myths.”

Also read:

Can diabetes make you more prone to cancer?

5 things you should know about obesity and breast cancer

One thing that doesn’t cause cancer

Mobile radiation

Cell phone radiation | Sunrise oncology center

With all the scary statistics above, there is one thing you can take comfort in: Research suggest that there is no link between electromagnetic signals from cellphones and your risk of cancer [14].

A study taken over ten years studied the effects of high levels of radio-frequency radiation in lab rats. They found no evidence that the levels of radio-frequency radiation that people were generally exposed to when they use cellphones are harmful to human health.

The final word

Cancer is preventable and successfully treatable when detected early. If you have any risk factors that make you more likely to develop cancer, get screened regularly. 

Also read: What after a cancer diagnosis?

Remember, a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence; with the advances in the treatment options for cancer, the disease is very treatable and manageable.

You may also like to read:


[1] McTiernan A, Friedenreich CM, Katzmarzyk PT, et al. Physical activity in cancer prevention and survival: A systematic review. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2019; 51(6):1252-1261.

[2]Patel AV, Friedenreich CM, Moore SC, et al. American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable Report on physical activity, sedentary behavior, and cancer prevention and control. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2019; 51(11):2391-2402.

[3] Keimling M, Behrens G, Schmid D, Jochem C, Leitzmann MF. The association between physical activity and bladder cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer 2014; 110(7):1862-1870.

[4]Pizot C, Boniol M, Mullie P, et al. Physical activity, hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer risk: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. European Journal of Cancer 2016; 52:138-154.

[5]Liu L, Shi Y, Li T, et al. Leisure time physical activity and cancer risk: evaluation of the WHO’s recommendation based on 126 high-quality epidemiological studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2016; 50(6):372-378.

[6] Schmid D, Behrens G, Keimling M, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of physical activity and endometrial cancer risk. European Journal of Epidemiology 2015; 30(5):397-412.

[7] Behrens G, Jochem C, Keimling M, et al. The association between physical activity and gastroesophageal cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Epidemiology 2014; 29(3):151-170.

[8] Behrens G, Leitzmann MF. The association between physical activity and renal cancer: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer 2013; 108(4):798-811.

[9] Psaltopoulou T, Ntanasis-Stathopoulos I, Tzanninis IG, et al. Physical activity and gastric cancer risk: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine 2016; 26(6):445-464.

[10] Sung J, Song J-M, Lawlor D, Davey Smith G, Ebrahim S. 2009Height and site-specific cancer risk: a cohort study of a Korean adult population. Am. J. Epidemiol. 170, 53-64. (doi:10.1093/aje/kwp088)

[11]de Boer M, van Leeuwen FE, Hauptmann M, et al. Breast Implants and the Risk of Anaplastic Large-Cell Lymphoma in the Breast. JAMA Oncol. 2018;4(3):335–341. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4510

[12] Nelson DE, Jarman DW, Rehm J, et al. Alcohol-attributable cancer deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States. American Journal of Public Health 2013;103(4):641-648.

[13] Ellulu MS, Patimah I, Khaza’ai H, Rahmat A, Abed Y. Obesity and inflammation: the linking mechanism and the complications. Arch Med Sci. 2017;13(4):851-863. doi:10.5114/aoms.2016.58928

[14] Miller AB, Sears ME, Morgan LL, et al. Risks to Health and Well-Being From Radio-Frequency Radiation Emitted by Cell Phones and Other Wireless Devices. Front Public Health. 2019;7:223. Published 2019 Aug 13. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2019.00223

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