Yesterday I posted an article about the news reported recently that the colorings in cola may pose a cancer risk. One of the comments on the original newspaper article suggested that “everything” causes cancer according to scientists, and that we therefore ought to stop listening to scientific advice.
There’s some truth in this. Scientists often seek to promote their own work by raising alarm about certain lifestyle choices without fully considering all ramifications of their advice; journalists are of course only too willing to help out when they smell a good story.
A great example of this is the advice that was handed out in the UK in the 90s to “slip, slop, slap”* whenever you go out in the sun. Sunshine, previously considered essential to all life on Earth, was now considered to be a cancer risk and something to be avoided. Indeed it’s true that people who sporadically bake themselves on sunbeds or in strong sunshine on foreign holidays are taking a bit of a risk. But we need sunshine, as the subsequent re-emergence of the bone-growth problem rickets in the UK now tells us. Lack of sunshine has been further linked to a range of diseases, from MS to schizophrenia to …. cancer.
But in fact while many things may, just may cause cancer, there are only three common main lifestyle factors that predispose people to cancer. They are:
Three Top Preventable Cancer Risks
There are, it’s true, other sources of preventable cancer. We’ve already covered excessive sun exposure. Cured meats may also raise your risk of cancer; they’re usually cured using potentially cancer-causing chemicals (see my post Five Surprising Facts About Gunpowder). Invisible radon gas affects some houses and contributes to lung cancer statistics. And of course, many foods have the potential to cause cancer if you go overboard with them; just don’t go overboard with them!
While the plethora of possible sources of cancer may alarm some, most possible causes are disputed or very minor in their likely impact on society, and the old adage of a little of what you fancy does you no harm certainly applies. It’s the big three that you have to worry about …. as long as you don’t do anything stupid like attempting to live on a diet of burnt toast and sausages while daily using a sunbed, and you’ll probably be OK.
*that is: slip on a long-sleeved shirt, slop on sun lotion and slap on a hat …. or something like that. Why not wrap your head in aluminium foil while you’re at it, just to be on the safe side?