Age, smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles are well known causes for many types of cancer. Recent research, though, has uncovered some everyday things you probably had no idea pose a cancer threat.
1. Automobile Exhaust
In the modern world, nearly everyone is exposed to diesel exhaust, a complex mixture of soot and gases that fill roadways of cities, farms, waterways, mines and other places. The World Health Organization (WHO) now says petroleum -- mainly diesel -- fumes definitely causes cancer in humans by changing the DNA inside cells.
Diesel exhaust is also believed to play a role in other health problems, such as eye irritation, headache, asthma and other lung and heart disease, and possibly immune system problems.
In 2012 the WHO reclassified diesel exhaust to the same health risk category as asbestos, arsenic and mustard gas.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t go that far. It considers diesel exhaust a likely, rather than known, human carcinogen.
An analysis published in February 2014 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal funded by the National Institutes of Health, reviewed three studies on miners and truck drivers and estimated that 6 percent of lung cancer deaths annually were due to workplace and environmental diesel exhaust exposure.
2. Birth Control
Some newer versions of the drugs used to prevent pregnancy -- particularly those with high doses of estrogen, some types of progestin and certain dosing schedules -- appeared to boost the risk of breast cancer 50 percent or more, according to a review of 20 years of health system electronic pharmacy records.
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found birth control pills manufactured in the last year that contain high-dose estrogen (50 micrograms or more) boosted breast cancer risk nearly threefold. Those that contained moderate-dose estrogen (30-35 micrograms) increased the chances about 1.6 times.
Other risky culprits were pills that contained a type of progestin called ethynodiol diacetate, and triphasic pills that deliver drugs in multiple doses or phases containing norethindrone.
In contrast, pills that delivered low-dose estrogen (20 micrograms) didn’t increase the risk, the study showed.
3. Microwave Popcorn
You may have heard the myth that microwave popcorn flavorings contains chemicals proven to cause lung cancer. You can relax, we're definitely not claiming that. Microwave popcorn bags, on the other hand, may pose a minor concern.
It seems the bags use a nonstick coating on the inside that decomposes when heated and then cooled. The compound perfluorooctanoic acid is produced. It’s associated with increased risk of liver and prostate cancer.
Some good evidence exists. One 1993 study found that factory workers exposed to the chemical had increased cancer mortality. it is still inconclusive, though, as to whether or not microwave popcorn bags pose any risk.