Is it your bedroom, where you can get restful sleep regularly?
Maybe. The International Agency for Research on Cancer had classified shift-work “that involves circadian disruption" (disruption of the 24 hour biological clock) as probably cancer causing to humans (Straif, 2007), but a large study published in 2016 did not find a statistically significant relationship between shift work and cancer (Travis, 2016). So avoid shift work if you can, perhaps the jury is still out on this one.
Is it your garden?
Although not a room in your home, you can garden organically and avoid pesticide exposure, or use lawn maintenance services that avoid chemical pesticides. Why? Certain pesticides are known to increase breast cancer (triazine pesticides), lung cancer (carbamate and phenoxyherbicides) and brain and blood cancers in children (indoor insecticides) (Sanborn, 2004).
Is it your bathroom, where you use multiple personal products made with dozens of chemicals, every day?
The bathroom can really be full of hazardous chemicals, and some believe this is the room where a little research, reading labels, and selecting appropriate products for skin, hair, nails, etc., can make the most difference. A few examples:
- BHA – likely human carcinogen
- Formaldehyde – in hair straighteners and nail products – a known carcinogen
- Coal tar – another known carcinogen found in specialty hair products
- PEG/ Polyethylene – found in some hair conditioners, can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a probable human carcinogen
So while there are things you can do in all of the above rooms to play a role in helping you avoid a cancer diagnosis, it’s what you do in the kitchen that may give you the biggest positive bang for your buck.
Cancer-Fighting Kitchen Tips: The Do's and Don’ts List
- DO pack your diet with cancer-fighting foods! These include colorful fruits and veggies (more fun to cook with, too!), cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), allium veggies (onions, garlic, leeks, scallions), and tomatoes. We want the good stuff: indole-3-carbinol, allium compounds, phytosterols, vitamin C , folate, carotenoids, lycopene, selenium, vitamin E, flavonoids, and dietary fiber!
- DO watch the oils you cook with. While oils with higher MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids) are better for your heart, canola oil contains substantial amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, which when heated, may lead to the formation of mutagenic (mutation causing) and carcinogenic (cancer causing) compounds.
- DON’T burn! Go easy on the well-done and char-broiling! High cooking temperatures and contact of flames with meat is associated with genetic mutations , a step in cancer development. Of course that crunchy part tastes delicious, but... is it worth it?
- DON’T overeat! Go easy altogether! Eating too much food is a risk factor for cancer, because of the additional risk of malignancies associated with obesity, and the protective effect of eating less food.
- DO avoid food known to be grown with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group does the advance work for you here. This article shows the current information on pesticide residue from the ewg.org. Look for the Clean 15 (produce you can buy as conventionally grown – non-organic) and the Dirty Dozen (produce you should purchase organic).
If you stop to think about how your environment and your daily habits can help to fight cancer, you may find that making some small, but important changes can have long-term positive effects on your health.
Donaldson Michael S. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutrition Journal, Vol 3, Iss 1, P 19 (2004) [serial online]. 2004;(1):19. Available from: Directory of Open Access Journals, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 5, 2017.
[Environmental Working Group] Top Tips for Safer Products http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/ . Accessed February 5, 2017.
[National Toxicology Program] Report on Human Carcinogens https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/butylatedhydroxyanisole.pdf . Accessed February 5, 2017.
[National Toxicology Program] Report on Human Carcinogens https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/dioxane.pdf . Accessed February 5, 2017.
Sanborn M, Cole D, Kerr K, et al. Pesticides literature review. Ontario College of Family Physicians. 2004:1-186. http://ocfp.on.ca/docs/public-policy-documents/pesticides-literature-review.pdf?Status=Master#d14b9fba-3da2-4216-a446-980b43dbd82e . Accessed February 5, 2017.
Straif K, Baan R, Cogliano V, et al. Carcinogenicity of shift-work, painting, and fire-fighting. The Lancet. Oncology [serial online]. December 2007;8(12):1065-1066. Available from: MEDLINE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 4, 2017.
Travis R, Balkwill A, Beral V, et al. Night Shift Work and Breast Cancer Incidence: Three Prospective Studies and Meta-analysis of Published Studies. Journal Of The National Cancer Institute [serial online]. October 6, 2016;108(12)Available from: MEDLINE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 4, 2017.
Dr. Dawn Cannon, MD, MS, is an integrative physician at National Integrative Health Associates, serving the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. Her focus is adult primary care and preventive medicine, approached holistically. Her special interests include detoxification for the damaging effects of environmental exposures and toxins, women's health, and a functional medicine approach to finding the root cause of disease or imbalance in the body.