July 16, 2015

Rethinking Carcinogens: Nine tips for reducing cancer risk

Did you know that half of all cancers – yes, half – can be prevented by applying knowledge and strategies we already have?

Prevention is powerful. And EWG wants cancer prevention to be a public health priority.

What can you do TODAY to reduce your cancer risk? Some of the tips below won’t come as a surprise, but they are important reminders that we can own our future. There’s a lot you can do to help prevent cancer.

Earlier this year New York state held its first-ever Cancer Prevention Summit, a strong indication that prevention might finally be getting the attention it deserves from the medical community. In his keynote address, Dr. Graham Colditz of Washington University in St. Louis highlighted eight ways to stay healthy and prevent cancer.


EWG stands with Dr. Colditz and his colleagues and applauds their focus on these personal behaviors that can substantially reduce cancer risk.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.
  2. Exercise regularly. Walking just 30 minutes five or more days a week and not sitting for extended periods can dramatically improve health.
  3. Don’t smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke
  4. Eat a healthy diet – rich in plant-based foods, low in processed foods and red meats, and not too high in calories.
  5. Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.
  6. Protect yourself from the sun.
  7. Avoid sexually transmitted infections. Practice safe sex and get recommended vaccinations, particularly for human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis A and B.
  8. Get screened for cancer. Consult your physician to determine what screenings are recommended, and when.

EWG would like to add one more very important tip that is conspicuously absent from the list:


9.     Minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals.

The risks that toxic chemicals pose to our health often go unnoticed because exposures generally happen at low levels and because it can take a long time for disease, especially cancer, to manifest itself. Occupational exposures alone (not just to chemicals) are estimated to cause 2-to-8 percent of all cancers. The World Health Organization, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other authoritative institutions have classified several hundred chemicals as known or potential carcinogens. And now new research from the Halifax Project indicates that some chemicals that are not known to cause cancer on their own can disrupt cancer-related pathways in the body. In combination, they may form carcinogenic mixtures.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce toxic chemical exposures for ourselves and our families. EWG has compiled some easy recommendations to reduce toxic chemicals in and around the home, including guides on personal-care products and foods.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a key to reducing the risk of cancer. Research such as that of the Halifax Project demonstrates more than ever how important it is to cut down on the number of toxic chemicals in our lives.

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