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From toothpaste to broccoli and deodorant, nearly everything seems to cause cancer these days. But of all the often-ridiculous claims (like sweeping the floor may cause cancer), only a handful are any cause for alarm. Says Dr See Hui Ti, senior consultant of medical oncology at Parkway Health Centre: “While it’s true that we’re probably exposed to many things that contain microscopic quantities of carcinogens daily, our bodies are amazing machines that can repair themselves from the bombardment we receive.” However, there are a few threats we should be aware of. Here, we separate fact from fiction, and highlight the precautionary measures you should take.
Oral Sex Causes Oral Cancers
This definitely grabbed your attention, didn’t it? A new study has linked the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted infection – to an increased risk of throat and tongue cancers. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reported that men and women who had oral sex with six or more partners had nearly a nine-fold increased risk of developing cancer of the tonsils or at the base of the tongue.
Of the 300 study participants, those infected with HPV were also 32 times more likely to develop these types of oral cancer than those who did not have the virus. These findings dwarfed the increased risk of developing this so-called oropharyngeal cancer associated with the two major risk factors: smoking (three times greater) and drinking (2ó times greater). Says the study’s author, US-based oncologist Dr Robert Haddad: “Although vaccines to prevent HPV infection are available, the idea that oral sex is entirely risk-free is not correct. It comes with significant risks. And developing sexually transmitted infections and cancer are just two of them.” The best prevention methods (and there’s a reason why you’ve heard this a thousand times): fidelity and safe sex.
Deodorants Cause Testicular Cancer
Currently, researchers have been unable to determine a direct link between deodorants and cancer. However a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health says that phthalates (the chemical used to give deodorants their texture) might cause DNA damage in sperm, and that may be indirectly linked to testicular cancer. “Although more tests have to be done in this area, what’s clear is that the chemicals in deodorants are totally unregulated,” says Heather Patisaul, PhD, who studies hormones and sex differentiation at North Carolina State University in the US. “So, manufacturers do not have to put them on a label.” If you really want to smell good, but minimise your risk, go for all-natural organic deodorants that don’t contain phthalates, such as Biologika Roll-on deodorant ($13.90 for 70ml, available at Four Seasons Organic Market).
Bruises Can Lead To Cancer
Bruises caused by knocks and bumps have not been proven to lead to cancer. However, bruise-like markings that don’t fade after more than a fortnight can be a symptom of acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), an aggressive form of skin cancer that often occurs in Asians. “Chronic sun exposure, old age, smoking, ultraviolet treatment and viral skin conditions can all cause skin cancer,” says Dr See. “But not bruises.” If you have a persistent bruise that doesn’t fade or improve after two to three weeks, see the doctor to be safe. If you have a bruise that was healed but reappeared recently, see a dermatologist ASAP – you might have ALM.
A Broken Heart Will Give You Cancer
While breaking up with the girl of your dreams can make you feel like dying, it doesn’t directly cause cancer. However, researchers at UCLA Cousins Centre say the stress associated with sudden singleness sure could. Stress affects your immune system negatively, causing your body to become more susceptible to cancer and other chronic illnesses. “Stress increases cortisol levels in the body,” explains Dr See. “This reduces immunity and affects your body’s ability to repair damage.” One of the best ways to fight
the stress of sudden singlehood is to prime your body for inflammation resistance by having a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. This will put a stopper on pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are protein molecules that promote bodily inflammation.
The Graveyard Shift Increases Your Risk Of Cancer
Studies by the World Health Organization have suggested an association between working the graveyard shift and an increased risk of cancer. Scientists think it is due to the way night shift messes up the body’s circadian rhythm, or lower melatonin levels in the blood. It is important to note, however, that these studies have been less than accurate due to the difficulty of keeping variables controlled – smoking, diet and exercise habits were not taken into account. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic, switching to the day shift probably won’t reduce your risk of cancer. Keeping active, eating right and staying away from tobacco will probably cut your risk a lot more.