"Everything causes cancer" is not true; it is a vast generalization and oversimplification. However if you search the web you will find this phrase is deep in the common knowledge. Everybody is saying it, from magazine and newswriters to bloggers. It is trite now, but it was cute 20 years ago. I also found references such as "life causes cancer" and "aging causes cancer", which are closer to true but still unhelpful.
But the banality is not what bugged me. It is the cynicism, hopelessness and apathy that I hear in it. People have heard so much about cancer research that they don't believe it anymore. They don't think that they're going to learn anything useful, so they just tune out. To avoid EVERYTHING that has been implicated in causing cancer, you would have to kill yourself. As long as you live and breathe, you are taking in and producing carcinogens. Since avoidance of causal agents is completely impossible, people get cycnical about it.
Everyone has known someone to die of cancer. It is a hard disease to understand, and even harder to watch it devour a loved one. And then the treatments are so horrible that often people believe that the cure killed the patient--not the disease. As a culture we harbour a deep well of bitterness about cancer, because it has touched us all. And we can't fix it. We watch helplessly as it takes people one by one. We don't like to talk about our powerlessness and fear. We don't want to go into our pain. So we resort to meaningless quips, and push on to a different topic.
I read about cancer, and I believe that there are lifestyle choices that completely change our odds of succumbing to it. I cling to the hope that I personally can avoid it, and that I can help others to do the same. My hopefulness is almost offensive to people who've lost so much. It is easier to believe in complete randomness than to believe that we might bring it on ourselves.
I believe that cancer is not so much caused, as not prevented. Individual cells make genetic mistakes all the time. If the "bad" cells happen to multiply too fast and die too slow, they are cancer. We all have cancerous cells in our bodies at this very moment. If our bodies are healthy, happy and strong, cancerous cell mistakes are rounded up and headed out in routine housecleaning.
Last year a read a book called Love, Medicine and Miracles by Bernie Siegel. I wrote about it at the time (you can find it using tags). Bernie believes that we get cancer because we send psychic "die messages" to our bodies when we are unhappy and imbalanced. If this is the case, I don't know why I'm not dead yet. I'm trying to be happy and balanced and it is an uphill battle. Regardless, I will continue my investigation into what can be done to avoid cancer, and to treat it, because it is fascinating to me as well as being intensely personal.
Here's a link (to my favorite online doc) that explains how each of us can inprove our odds of avoiding cancer:
(Summary: Get a tan, but don't get burned. The Italians knew it all along...)
A list of EVERYTHING begins below. Feel free to send links and lists of things that cause cancer.
Burned Meat (heterocyclic amines): http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060401/food.asp
Wearing a Bra: (impinges on lymph system drainage)
Solar radiation: ultraviolet light is the most energetic and biologically damaging. Sun lamps and sun-beds. Exposure is associated with cutaneous malignant melanoma.
Estrogen: causes breast epithelial cells to divide, which may lead to DNA mutations. Levels are highest during menstuation. Because women now reach the age of menarche earlier and women put off bearing children until later in life, they have hundreds more periods than their grandmothers, raising their risk of breast cancer.
Acetyaldehyde: product of most hydrocarbon oxidations and is a normal intermediate in the respiration of most higher plants and is a natural component of apples, broccoli, coffee, grapefruit, grapes, lemons, mushrooms, onions, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapples, raspberries, and strawberries.
Vinyl chloride: a colourless, flammable gas with a faintly sweet odor emitted by PVC plastic. The average daily intake of vinyl chloride by inhalation is supposed to be essentially zero for [most] of the population (I doubt this due to modern housing). New car owners get more due to volatilization of vc from vinyl polymers inside the car. That "new car smell".
Red fiestaware plates: The ingredient in the glaze of these popular plates is uranium (radioactive). Acidic foods leach out and absorb uranium from the glaze. In 1981 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that the radioactivity levels of the plates were low enough not to be a health hazard. In 1994 someone discovered that the red pieces were also leaking radon gas through cracks in the glaze at levels that are seven times higher than is considered safe.
Unsafe sex: transmission of the human papillomavirus, which has been implicated in causing cervical cancer.
Radon: a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is found in some 20% of homes. Some 22,000 cases of long cancer per year in North America might be caused by radon.
Cigarettes: Nearly 4,000 chemicals have been found in tobacco smoke, including acrolein, aromatic amines, benzene, formaldehyde, nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, urethan, radioactive elements, arsenic, nickel, chromium and cadmium. All of these are carcinogenic.
Being at high altitude: flying at altitudes exposes you to intense radiation, esp over the magnetic poles, where the Earth's magnetic field funnels charged particles into high concentrations.
Cisplatic: a cancer drug--and there are others that are carcinogenic. Since the 1970s cisplatin has been used in the treatment of testicular tumours; malignant melanoma; osteogenic sarcoma; carcinomas of the urinary bladder, lung (other than small cell), uterine cervix, and ovary; and squamous carcinoma of the head and neck region.
Dies: Direct Blue 6, in hair dyes and food packaging.
Asbestos: don't inhale it. Causes cancer in mice. Avoid demolition sites and dumps where that stuff goes, and asbestos mines. There's an asbestos mine in Grand Canyon.
Aflatoxins: toxic metabolites produced by certain types of fungi that grows on grains, peanuts, tree nuts, and cottonseed meal. Animals that consume these grains etc can produce meat, eggs and milk that are contaminated. One source said North Americans "may" consume up to 0.15-0.50 g of aflatoxins daily.
DDT: still used around the world to control malaria. The mosquito larvicide is used as a residual spray for the eradication of malaria in dwellings, and as a dust in mass human delousing programs for typhus control. DDT has also been used for mothproofing clothing.
Chloroform: could be in dairy products, oils and fats, vegetables, bread, beverages, drinking water (by-product of chlorination), antibiotics, alkaloids, vitamins, and flavors; lacquers, floor polishes, artificial silk manufacture, resins, fats, greases, gums, waxes, adhesives, oils, and rubber; solvent in photography and dry cleaning; and in fire extinguishers.