Master in Food/ Nutrition/ Dietetics
We humans do not live in a controlled environment. We are continuously exposed to so many substances at any given time, including those we encounter at work, school, home, in the food we eat and the air we breathe. It is very unlikely to know what we have been exposed to exactly everyday. There are usually many years (often decades) between exposure to a carcinogen and the development of cancer.
Cancer is caused by changes in a cell's DNA either by genetic factors or caused by environmental exposures such as lifestyle factors (diet and nutrition, level of physical activity, tobacco use etc.), UV rays, infectious agents, medical treatments (radiation, hormone drugs, immunosuppresive agents etc.), household and workplace exposures, pollution etc...
If I am exposed to Carcinogen, will I get Cancer?
Cancer development is a complex process that occurs over a long period of time, and is influenced by many factors. The risk of getting cancer from exposure depends upon the type of carcinogen and length of exposure.
The good news is that if exposure to carcinogens is stopped soon enough, the body can stop or reverse the cancer process.
Lets look at some of the common Carcinogens/toxins/pollutants we are/might be exposed to:
1. Cigarette Smoking (active & passive), tobacco use, incents or agarbattis, smoke of burnt food and waste materials.
2. Asbestos: (paper roofing, floor tiles, and in construction). Not widely used now due to it's direct links with Cancer
3. Benzene: (Rubber, paint, dry cleaning, adhesives, detergents)
4. Vinyl Chloride: (Food wrapping films)
5. Diet and Nutrition: Excessive consumption of processed foods (with preservatives, flavour enhancers, colours, artificial flavours etc.) , very high consumption of salt, saturated fat, animal products and acidic foods.
Animal carcinogen acrylamide is generated in fried or overheated carbohydrate foods (such as french fries and potato chips. Avoid eating french fries too frequently.
6. Cosmetics (Chemicals used in Shampoos, body washes, soaps, toothpaste etc.)
7. Use of unsafe plastic (read more here: http://bit.ly/1sn4GCu)
8. Constant long term exposure to radiation (cell phones, X-rays etc.)
9. According to research, shift work brings out changes in the circadian rhythms which can lead to Cancer if it is continued for long time.
What should we do to minimise our exposure to these Carcinogens?
1. Reducing exposures to diesel and auto mobile emissions: Wear carbon filter masks or anti-pollution face masks while commuting. Simply keeping a handkerchief on mouth in polluted areas is not going to purify the air you breathe.
2. Reducing exposures to sun: There is a direct correlation between sun exposure and melanoma. Sunscreen (organic and natural brand) should always be used to protect against skin cancers.
3. Keep your house well ventilated: To get rid of the cooking smoke, incents, cleaning chemicals and other chemicals used in paints, polish, furniture etc... Light Camphor in a diffuser as it is known to purify the air and also brings the positivity.
The first step in reducing toxic carcinogens in your home is to remove the detergents and cleaners you no longer need. Many of these products can be replaced with things you make yourself. A vinegar and water solution makes a great all-purpose liquid cleaner and can be put in a spray bottle for easy use. Baking soda is another green cleaning solution, perfect for the tough jobs like tiles and countertops.
Instead of using chemically loaded air freshners try a simple, natural potpourri using orange peels and cinnamon bark or natural aromatic oils in candle diffusers.
4. Go Organic and Natural wherever possible: Reduce the intake of pesticides and insecticides from the food. Choose natural cosmetics, cut down the use of fancy expensive branded cosmetics, remember they all contain CHEMICALS!! e.g. Use turmeric and chickpea flour mixed in cream or milk as a facial cleanser , why spend on expensive face wash when mothernature has given us so many good natural alternatives.
Eat organic grains, dals, spices, fruits, vegetables whenever possible. If you do not have access to organic ingredients, check the authenticity of the fresh produce you buy. Find out some local vendors or farmers who grow fresh vegetables, seasonal fruits in their farm or garden and sell it in your nearby market.
5. Eat healthy homemade meals and avoid eating processed food as much as possible. Say no to canned, bottled, tetra packed foods. Stick to fresh ingredients as much as possible. Eat clean!!!!
Stop the use of Microwave food, they are no longer good for health.
6. Meditation and Breathing techniques: Experts say 80% of the toxins are thrown out of the body by our lungs. Invest time in learning these effective alternate therapies eg. Sudarshan Kriya (Art of Living), Pranayam, other breathing techniques , meditation etc. and practice it regularly.
7. Regular Exercise: Indulge in any kind of physical activity for 30-40 minutes daily. The "weekend warrior" who is predominantly sedentary during the week but engages in vigorous bouts of exercise during the weekend may be doing more harm than good. To rip the good benefits of exercise, you must do it regularly. Remember, Sweating can rid of many dangerous toxins and carcinogens like phthalates, BPA, heavy metals etc.
8. Increase the consumption of antioxidants as they fight against free radicals. Antioxidants are an important part of healthy eating. A diet rich in these naturally occurring compounds helps our bodies fight other naturally occurring compounds called free-radicals. Free-radicals can accelerate the ageing process and cause disease by damaging our body's fats, proteins and cells. Eat 8-9 servings of colourful vegetables and fruits daily to get the right dosage of antioxidants.
(1 serving = 100gms)
9. Include Cancer fighting foods in your meals daily: Turmeric, Black Pepper (mix turmeric with black pepper powder and use this mixture for making curries, soups, dals etc. An anti cancer effect of piperin is doubled when it is mixed with curcumin from turmeric), Green Tea, Cruciferous Vegetables (Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower), Onion, Celery, Garlic, Apples, Parsley.