Cancer is caused by changes to a cell’s DNA. On very, very few occasions it’s inherited from our parents through faulty genes, but it’s mostly caused by our modern lifestyles and the environments we live in.
Substances and exposures that can change our DNA and lead to cancer are called carcinogens. Carcinogenesis quite literally means the ‘creation of cancer’. It is a process whereby a normal cell’s DNA is damaged or changed by the carcinogen so the cell becomes a mutant, cancer cell.
So what are these carcinogens – these things that can change our DNA? What are the things that can cause cancer? Well there are thousands of well-documented carcinogenic situations we face every day and they fall into the chemical, radiation or viral category.
Carcinogens come in the form of thousands of chemicals in our air, food, and water. Things like processed foods, food that has been genetically modified, over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, party drugs, vaccines, tobacco, alcohol, fluoridated water, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, burnt toast, dust, asbestos, viruses, radiation and ultraviolet light. The list goes on.
UV light will attack skin cells, tobacco smoke will target lung cells, contaminated water can affect many different cells because it enters our bloodstream. However, not all carcinogens lead to cancer, as they have different levels of cancer-causing potential. The risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including how you are exposed to a carcinogen, the length and intensity of the exposure, and your genetic makeup.
For years people have just been focused on ‘finding a cure for cancer’ when, what they often don’t realise, is that there are so many things they can do on a daily basis to drastically reduce their risk of getting cancer. For example, you can start by staying away from the nasties we mentioned above. Try replacing them with the good things that your body needs to boost your immune system so it can protect you from carcinogens and keep your cells strong and healthy.