Cancer is a scary disease and one we don’t completely understand. What we know is that cancer is disease where cells grow without restraint and invade normal tissue. In some cases, cancer cells follow a relentless course that carries them to other organs and tissues in distant locations. We call this phenomenon metastasis. You may have heard someone say they had cancer in an area like their breast and it spread to their liver. That’s metastasis in action and it often leads to death.
Fortunately, some cancers can be cured, if caught early, through surgery and sometimes radiation or chemotherapy in conjunction with surgery. Yet, radiation and chemotherapy damage normal tissues along with the cancerous ones. The best way to avoid the havoc that cancer can wreak is to prevent it in the first place. We know that diet likely plays a role in who develops cancer and genetics is a factor too. Staying physically active and avoiding exposure to toxins that damage cells may also reduce the risk.
More recently, research suggests that other factors MAY increase the risk of developing cancer. Here are five you should know about.
Working the Night Shift
All of your bodily functions, through your biological clock, are influenced by light striking the back of our eyes. When light hits the retina in your eye, it signals your brain to produce key hormones and other factors that impact your health. One such hormone is melatonin. When light hits your eyes when you would normally be sleeping, it turns off the production of melatonin, an antioxidant hormone that also influences other hormones in your body, including estrogen. Working a night shift and exposing your eyes to light disrupts melatonin and, in turn estrogen. Such a disruption may be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer.
Some, but not all, studies show a link between night shift work and breast cancer. Although not proven, the link is strong enough that International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Health Organization calls shift work a “likely carcinogenic in humans.” It’s not just shift work that may be a problem. Exposing your eyes to light at night in any capacity disrupts your inner biological clock and may, over time, increase cancer risk. Hitting the sack earlier in the evening and sleeping in a pitch-black room helps maximize melatonin production and reduces disruption of your biological clock.
Cooking Meat to High Temperatures
You might remember a recent study that showed a link between consuming processed meat and a greater incidence of cancer. However, even unprocessed meat produces cancer-causing chemicals when you cook them at high temperatures, particularly when you grill or fry them. Have you ever noticed the black marks and charred areas on meat when you place it on the grill? Those are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a class of compounds linked with DNA damage and cancer in animal studies. Grilling and barbecuing meat also