Cancer Prevention must Start at Home
Originally published in June 2003 icon - Updated October 2008
This article looks at environmental causes of cancer. When you have read it you will understand that the information on preventing cancer s vast. You will wonder why no one told you.
And you will learn that preventing cancer by avoiding toxins must start at home - for that is where most toxins are.
If you really want to prevent cancer, this is a MUST READ article.
50 per cent of cancers are your own fault ran the front page headline in the well known UK daily paper, early in 2008. Apparently, we all eat badly, we smoke and drink too much, we go in the sun and we dont exercise enough. The Government and top cancer charities, in their infinite wisdom, are quite clear: We are all to blame for our own potential demise.
Unfortunately for this theory, I receive all too many letters from people who dont smoke, do watch their weight, joined the gym, took up yoga, and gave up the demon drink............. yet, still got cancer. Pray tell, oh wise ones, what causes the other 50 per cent?
Now, I may have missed something here. But I vote for a Government every five or so years, expecting them to take decisions in my best interests. Instead I witness less and less sports fields at schools, poorer quality foods in our supermarkets and high streets, electronic devices everywhere, yet restrictions on natural food supplements. It took a revolt amongst MPs to overrule our wishy-washy PM and Health Minister of the time and bring in a full smoking ban in public places, as they were against the idea. And if it werent for Jamie Oliver our kids would still be eating fat-ladened burgers and greasy chips at school.
But the ineptitude doesnt stop there. Unlike these wise people who dispense blame so glibly, we ordinary folk are all aware of something more sinister. Something the Government and cancer bodies should be protecting us from, but prefer to procrastinate over or, worse, ignore. We know about it. Why dont they?
The evidence is there. Scientists, experts, toxicologists and the like have researched and concluded. A good example would be the 2006 report from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell: "Environmental and Occupational Causes of Cancer: A Review of Recent Scientific Evidence". This starts by referring to a previous and British report produced 20 years or so ago by Sir Richard Doll and Richard Peto who attributed only 2-4 per cent of cancers to environmental and occupational exposure. Unfortunately this has determined our thinking ever since. Worse, new evidence shows they are clearly wrong.
In the 50 page study from Lowell, researchers conclude Many cancer cases and deaths are caused or contributed to by involuntary exposures. These include: bladder cancer from the primary solvent used in dry cleaning, breast cancer from endocrine disruptors like bisphenol-A and other plastics components, lung cancer from residential exposure to radon, non-Hodgkins lymphoma from solvent and herbicide exposure, and childhood leukemia from pesticides The authors further noted that the mortality rate for all cancers combined (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) is the same today as it was in the 1940s, yet the annual rate of new cases has significantly increased.
"Major cancer agencies have largely avoided the urgency of acting on what we know to prevent people from getting cancer in the first place," said researcher Genevieve Howe at Lowell.
So its certainly not all your fault. And some Governments in our world have even taken action on chemicals that ours continues to allow in common use.
Its enough to make you retreat into the safety of your own home and bolt the door. Unfortunately, inside your own home is where your problems really start.
Warning: Your home can seriously damage your health
Location, location, location
People love to look in estate agents windows 4 bedrooms, a downstairs loo, en suite shower, wonderful. However, top of the list should come the most important criterion of all: Location.
If you go to UK cancer charity web sites, the causes of lung cancer may include asbestos and smoking. However, American sites will associate as many as a quarter of cases with other factors for example, diesel fumes. Breathing toxic particles from diesel fumes will deliver the toxins to the deepest recesses of your lungs from where they are extremely difficult to remove. Epidemology studies show the dangers of living near main roads and, especially for children, living near petrol stations.
You may of course head to the hills. However, in certain parts of Britain, notably the West Country, areas of Wales and areas round Manchester and Glasgow, our land is rock-based and contains deposits of uranium. The decomposing uranium gives off radon, a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas which slowly bubbles to the surface through your floors. You could try opening all the doors and windows, but this is not too effective as the radon sticks" to dust particles in the localised environment of the house. When you breathe in, these dust particles also go to the deepest recesses of your lungs and the radon decomposes further resulting in carcinogenic activity.
Dont be under any illusions about this. Several big studies in the USA, and the US Surgeon General, have concluded that radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Indeed, if it combines with cigarette smoking, risks are disproportionately multiplied.
One answer, if you are worried, is to contact the Radiological Protection Board on 0800 614529 or visit www.hpa.org.uk/radiation.
Heading for the open countryside may not be much better. There you must avoid a different hazard: Beware farmers bearing toxic sprays. A farmer can spray a fruit orchard as many as 15 times in a season. Not surprisingly farmers have higher incidences of blood cancers like multiple myeloma. Those who live by the spray....
One lady I know in a beautiful Kent oast house had to shut the windows, even on a hot summer day. She developed breast cancer last year. Pesticides and herbicides have been the subject of important papers in the EU. They have even clearly stated that some are proven to be linked to cancer. However the UK Government left pesticides out of their 2004 White Paper on cancer completely accident, or ignorance, or vested interests? You choose.
Next, avoid living near power cables or electricity sub-stations. Leukaemia risk is increased. At least UK Government policy is now to stop new house building within 200 yards of power cables (not that were building many houses anyway at the moment!!)
Finally, avoid being down-wind of a factory, especially a chemical factory, steel makers, wood cutters/timber merchants or cement factory all have been linked in the USA to increase risks of blood and kidney cancers.
Other Dangers you cant see
Just in case you didnt find that all scary enough, we now have a new threat to our health growing unchecked by our UK leaders. No, not GM foods. Electrosmog. The good news so far is that officially in the UK, you cant have a school in the full beam of a phone mast. Precautionary advice, admittedly. But its a start. We have to protect our little cherubs at school. Of course you can end up living right next to a mast if your local council says the mobile phone boys can erect one in your street, so they may not be very well protected at night.
Until a few started rebelling in late 2007, councils could not turn down a mast planning application on the grounds of safety just on aesthetics. However, the Government of Taiwan know better. They have just ordered 1500 phone masts to be pulled down and included in the official statement are the words causes health problems and cancer. In icon you may have read the story of breast cancer victim Eileen OConnor and how she proved the presence of a cancer cluster and had her local mast removed. Click here to read this article.
Its also precautionary advice in the UK that children should not use mobile phones for long periods. In Canada, their Government has just ruled that children under 8 should only be allowed to use mobile phones for emergencies. In China, the Government there simply refuses to allow the sale of mobile phones as strong as those in Britain. Frying tonight was something that only happened down the fish and chip shop when I was a lad.
Then theres the new designer must have: WiFi. How is it that you cannot launch a new food, or health supplement without proving first in triplicate that it is safe (unless you are talking GM, that is) but you can infest the whole nation with WiFi? There is, as of today, simply no serious research on WiFi. Only recently the BBC investigative programme, Panorama, showed schools with WiFi had three times the levels of Electromagnetic smog that they would get from a full bean phone mast. Come on Government wake up!
Although you may not have WiFi at home, your neighbours may have it the other side of your shared wall. At my mothers UK house, my computer tells me 4 nearby homes have WiFi strong enough for me to access. (Im still trying to work out which one amongst them in quiet leafy Epsom is Sexyboots).
Suffer little Children
So, lets assume we have chosen our location wisely. Now lets make a dash for the front door and hope to escape this toxic outside world.
The dangers can start as soon as you walk through the front gate. Moss killers, weed killers, ant killers, rose sprays: If they are harmful to the genes of plants and aphids why would they not be harmful to your genes?
The link between cancer and pesticide exposure is well documented. In one US study children under 14, whose gardens have been sprayed with herbicides, have a four times greater incidence of connective tissue tumours; in another, pesticides used to eradicate garden insects are linked with increased levels of brain tumours in children and, in another, with a fourfold increase in childhood leukaemia.
As you may be aware, cancer levels have doubled overall in the UK in the last 30 years. What you may not be aware of is that for certain childrens cancers they have more than trebled.
Several research studies have shown that our children are both more susceptible to toxic poisoning (because their brains, nervous and immune systems are still forming) and are more likely to contain toxins in their blood streams.
For example in 2004/5 the World Wildlife Fund turned its focus from pandas to humans and, looking for the presence of 78 of the nastiest toxins in everyday life, found 65 of them in our blood streams. On average we have 27, and the highest was in someone from Glasgow with 49 (no comment is necessary). Worse, in a follow up study on 80 harmful ingredients, children were shown, on average, to contain a whopping 75, while the grandparents only had, on average, 56. Importantly, there was no difference at all found between city and rural dwellers. These are inside your home, wherever you may live.
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In children the following chemicals were most commonly found:
Polychlorinated biphenyls from coolants, flame-retardants and plastics: known to affect nervous system and linked to liver and brain cancers.
Organochlorides from plant pesticides to mosquito repellents: linked to male genital problems and hormone disruptive, oestrogen mimic effects.
Perfluorinated chemicals from fast food packaging, non-stick utensils, stain resistant carpets and furniture polishes - linked to bladder cancer.
Phthalates from plastics in bottles to childrens toys, and many toiletry bottles - known oestrogen mimics and hormone disrupters.
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers found in flame-retardants in cars, furniture and TVs, and in clothing treatments: cause severe hormone disruption and blood disorders.
Worse, not only is the problem occurring inside the home, it seems to stem from the everyday products we bring into the home.
Take another deeply worrying study: In 2008, the University of Washington (The Journal of Paediatrics) studying babies between the ages of 2 and 28 months, has found that 80 per cent have blood streams containing seven or more phthalates. The urine of babies who had been exposed to their parents perfumed lotions, shampoos or powders had four times the phthalate levels of children who had not been exposed to those products. Children under the age of eight months fared the worst. Phthalates are known to be powerful and cumulative endocrine (hormone) disrupters.
Phthalates typically originate from plasticisers used to soften plastic - for example, to make plastic bottles surrounding shampoos and bubble bath. But they can also be found in plastic toys. California has recently banned the sale of plastic toys for children under the age of three. But yours in Britain can play with these toys or even suck on a plastic dummy or a plastic teething ring.
Recent research also showed that where plastics had contained hot liquids they released more phthalates, and continued to do so for ever after even when the liquid was cold so beware thermos cups, plastic cups and beakers, or babies bottles.
California banned their plastic toys in 2007 not just for phthalate content but also because many contain another hormone disrupter Bisphenol A (BPA). You can get yours from certain white linings in cans; baby can get theirs from a plastic feeding bottle.
Canada has just banned BPA, full stop. Why cant we?
Direct and indirect cancer causing toxins
Before we continue, it is probably best to provide a little kiddies guide to toxins and cancer.
There are a number of ways you can develop cancer. Suffice it to say that there are certain toxins (radioactivity would be a good example) that can have a direct effect on your cell, and cause a rogue cell to be produced. They may be external, or internal (for example, the free radicals you produce from everyday living).
You make about 200 or so rogue cells throughout each day, but under normal circumstances your immune system mops them up. However if your immune system is impaired, they stand far more chance of beating the system, and you are then on your way to a cancer. There are many things that can weaken your immune system and are thus indirect causes of cancer. Where Cancer Bodies and Governments get their knickers in a twist is that they seem to only want to look at direct causes. And ones that cant sue them, or ones that dont give them money.
So 25 years ago epidemiology studies linked smoking with increased risk of cancer, and warnings were put on pack labels. Science now has theories about how smoking may have both direct and indirect effects, and we are past the point of legal action by Tobacco Companies. But similar epidemiology studies (for example from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden) show that dairy is also linked to increased risk of cancer. But farmers vote for MPs. And there are lots of farmers.
IARC, the International Agency for cancer in Lyon, is about to declare lack of sleep, and poor sleeping habits carcinogenic. Research shows that lack of sleep reduces melatonin levels and this is linked (probably via two hormones that melatonin seems to control IGF-1 and Oestrogen) to increased cancer risk, probably directly and indirectly as melatonin is a powerful antioxidant too. Yet we know that EMFs reduce melatonin levels similarly. Why is IARC not thinking to declare EMFs (from masts, mobile phones etc) carcinogenic? Perchance it is that sleep cannot sue Governments, nor can it pay for lobbyists in Parliament, nor mobile phone licences?
Some chemicals are directly toxic. Heavy metals like cadmium are linked to kidney cancer; mercury to leukaemia. After World War II the worldwide production of chemicals was 1 million tonnes. Now it approaches 500 million. Some chemical compounds like dioxins are extremely, and directly, toxic. Other chemical compounds like phthalates, parabens and BPA can mimic the action of oestrogen when in the body and have a number of serious and negative effects. They are called xenoestrogens and are endocrine disrupters. Oestrogen has been proven since 1994 (by the NCI in the USA) to be a cause of cancer it fuels the fire.
Of course there are Government Safe Limits on each of these hormone disrupting chemical ingredients. But firstly, new research has recently shown some of these to be set way too high. Secondly, Governments approve chemicals in parts per million or parts per billion, but hormones are so powerful they can work at levels of parts per trillion a thousand to a hundred thousand times less concentrated. Thirdly, Dr Ana Soto of the Tufts Cancer Centre in the USA has shown that xenoestrogens are cumulative in the body. Individually they may all be below Government safe levels - but cumulatively? The US Cancer Prevention Coalition covers research that shows the lifetime safe toxin level is exceeded by the time a person reaches 18 months.
We finally make it to the front door. Here it is a good idea to adopt an oriental custom and leave your outdoor shoes outside. Why bring in the lead still found in traces on our pavements, or the germs, pesticides and herbicides into the house and onto the carpets? Again scientific studies have shown that is exactly what you do! Carpets hold over a hundred times more dust than wood flooring and research shows lead levels in carpet dust exceed those in clean-up levels from toxic factory sites! Think about getting rid of your carpets! If not, vacuum at least twice per week and use a vacuum cleaner with at least a HEPA filter.
Relax in the lounge and take a deep breath at the end of a tiring day. Unfortunately, if the radon doesnt get you the formaldehyde might!
A 2006 Columbia University, UC Davis and Harvard School of Public Health study of teenage kids in LA and New York armed teenagers with air monitor in their back packs and sent them about their normal daily lives. The top pollutants were not quite as expected. First was Formaldehyde, second was Dichlorobenzene. Both these come from indoor sources. A long way behind, and third, was benzene from vehicle fumes. Researchers equated the danger from the top two as being the equivalent of breathing second hand smoke all day.
Formaldehyde is a class A carcinogen (the worst sort) and may be present from a number of sources; for example, the manufacture of cheaper pressed woods (plywood and chipboards), and from some fixatives for carpets and tiles. It is used to stiffen many fabrics like new clothing or upholstery and carpets. It certainly causes respiratory and eye problems and there are several research studies from 2004 and 2005 covered in icon linking it to cancers such as lung cancer and leukaemia. The FDA in America supports this concern. Formaldehyde is also contained in many cosmetic and skin and personal care products like nail polishes and shampoos. It is found in household cleaning products, mould and mildew cleaners and even in furniture and contraceptives. Formaldehyde has over 50 different synonyms used by manufacturers to hide its presence; for example methyl aldehyde. It has been banned in Sweden and Japan. Why not in the UK?
So read labels and avoid products containing it; wash all new clothing before wearing it and leave newly carpeted and curtained rooms a week or two with the windows open before you or your children sleep there. Always use 100 per cent cotton sheets and wash them before use.
Dichlorobenzene (1.4-dichlorobenzene) is used in solid deodorisers and mothballs, came second in the study. "Some households had very, very high concentrations and others didnt have much at all, said the lead researcher, who suspects that toilet deodorisers were to blame(!!) Dichlorobenzene is produced from any of these fake, nice smells in the household.
Of course, you have given up smoking. But have all those around you? Certainly there is compelling evidence to ask visitors and guests not to smoke in your home. Never allow anyone to smoke in your house.
Research from Cancer Research UK has concluded that the harm from passive smoking is much worse than originally thought. Females are particularly vulnerable, as the risks of smoking link to specific factors in the airways. These factors are produced by the X chromosome. (In our DNA each of us has two chromosomes. Women have two X chromosomes and men have an X and a Y. Thus women produce twice as many X related airway factors).
Lead is another toxin that can enter through those open windows, although less and less as lead-free petrol is widely used now. However, the soil alongside major roads has been found to still be contaminated. Although it has not been proven to be carcinogenic it is extremely toxic to the nervous system, kidneys, blood system and cell reproduction. Lead is still found in paints made before 1980. Maybe its time to brighten up your house. But nowadays lead comes into your home another way through your water system.
Many people will shop organically, cut dairy and red meat consumption, eat more vegetables and chant the mantra, You are what you eat, before settling down to a nice cup of tea in front of the TV. There is a weird irony about water in the home. Young lycra clad women on running machines have their plastic bottled mineral water about them at all times. A symbol of health, indeed fashion. Then they cook in tap water, or eat out in restaurants that do the same.
Tap water will be covered in detail in our next issue of icon it is also the subject of an extensive chapter in my new book, The Rainbow Diet and how it can help you beat cancer. Click here to read a review of the book.
Tap water contains chlorine which reacts with organic materials to form highly carcinogenic trihalomethanes. Harvard and other US Health centres have been very active on these chemicals, which are dangerous.
Tap water may contain fluoride. Even the FDA has now confirmed that this is a carcinogen. There are extensive research studies showing that it causes neurological problems and even brain damage especially in the foetus and children. Pregnant women are warned about intake of fluoride. So what should pregnant women do, Mr Prime Minister, if you force through laws to fluoridate all water supplies? Move home while pregnant?
Apart from lead, water can also contain heavy metals like aluminium. Recycled water in major cities can also contain oestrogen and drug levels you most definitely do not need, thanks to HRT, contraceptive pill and drug takers urine.
Increasingly, some tap waters contain chlorine-resistant microscopic parasites.
The safest solution is to drink glass bottled water from pure mountain sources. (Frankly, you cannot be sure that your plastic bottled water is not leaching oestrogen like phthalates into your pure mountain water, so be careful).
Best of all might be to use a Reverse Osmosis (RO) Water Filter you can use RO water to wash utensils or to cook. You can of course drink RO water it is commonly drunk in the Far East but normal systems remove almost everything including the minerals and this makes it more acidic. Look for new RO systems that replace the lost minerals and so return the water to its correct state. You can find out more on both by clicking here or calling 0203 186 1006.
Then you stroke the cat and pat the dog; dog collars and flea collars may keep the pests away from your house, but they too have been directly linked with increased levels of cancer, especially in children. Pet sprays and pet shampoos historically contained pesticides (some have now moved to cut out the worst). Dont laugh, but you can always try feeding your cat garlic and brewers yeast instead? Or try rubbing the fur with clove or eucalyptus oil. The bugs will move on quickly!
To reduce the garden bugs, look for more organic approaches: Vinegar pots kill slugs; good old fashioned fly paper still works, French marigolds keep the aphids off garden vegetables, and chickens eat the moth bugs that descend from the apple trees in winter. Our Grandparent-food growers all knew this.
Dont clean your home!
Ladies - its official. You mustnt keep your homes so clean.
The homes of housewives at home contain 40 per cent more toxins than those of their sisters who go out to work all day.
Another study showed that the air in Times Square was 16 times cleaner than inside supposedly clean American homes.
The American EPA statistics show that women working at home have a 55 per cent increased risk of cancer over those who work away from home!
Most of the harm comes from Volatile Organic Carbons (VOCs). VOCs comprise hundreds, even thousands of man-made and even natural carbon-based agents. Again some of these are known to be direct chemical toxins; while others are indirect immune system weakeners and/or hormone disrupters. We listed most earlier in the section on polluted children.
Research carried in icon showed that VOCs can accumulate in certain parts of the body like your lungs, especially at the junctions, and can reach 400 times their original concentrations. Could this be one missing link in the recent Canadian finding that one third of new lung cancer victims have never been near cigarette smoke, even passively, and the incidence of the disease is rising particularly in younger women?
Toluene, xylene, trichloroethylene and l-trichloro-ethane comprise the majority of the solvent market. VOCs are ideal solvents and are also found in pesticides, disinfectants and household cleaners. If you walk down the cleaner aisle of your grocery store you can smell them in the air. The gases can pass through plastic containers; you absorb them by breathing, ingestion or, like the babies in the earlier Washington University study, through absorption via the skin. VOCs have been placed third by the American Environmental Protection Agency, after cigarette smoke and radon, as indoor carcinogens.
VOCs are also found in paints, varnishes, glue for ceiling and carpet tiles, dyes, cleaning products, inks, perfumes, polish removers and more.
We have talked about formaldehyde, but other harmful and common substances include:
Phenols: found in disinfectants, air fresheners, furniture polishes and paint removers. But also in fragrances, nail polish, lip balm, antiseptics, lipstick, mouthwash and other personal care products.
Creosol: found in numerous products from paint removers and disinfectants to personal care products.
Benzene and nitrobenzene; these cross cell walls, damage immune systems and are known carcinogens. Again found in a variety of products from furniture polish to personal care products.
Ammonia: found in cleaners, furniture polish and fabric softeners, but also antiperspirants disinfectants, beauty products, personal care and even baby products!
Never mind the lounge! Worse is to come in your bedroom and bathroom.
In 2006/7 Euro MPs were asked to vote on the REACH project. This detailed that a number of everyday ingredients used in your home contained suspected dangerous chemical ingredients. It wanted those ingredients sidelined, to be replaced by safer alternatives.
The problem is that the makers of household, cosmetic and toiletry products by and large police the safety of their own products. And if their ingredients are not all inert, sadly our Government and leading cancer charities appear to be.
Furthermore, our Governments adopt conflicting standards. A mineral supplement to be taken orally is illegal until you can prove it safe and of benefit. However, the same mineral ingredient in a lotion for your skin that will still reach your blood stream is deemed perfectly safe until you or I prove otherwise.
Quite properly Euro MPs decided certain ingredients should definitely be sidelined. The REACH bill was passed. However that is not quite how Brussels works. Nothing is ever that simple. First the Commissioners have to approve it. However, they were extensively lobbied and decided that the EMPs should reconsider their decision. Result: Mess. (Although, thankfully, there is a feeling that REACH will be adopted one day soonish).
In the USA legislature, 64 bills to ban potentially harmful chemical ingredients have all failed. Now California has decided to go it alone. We shall see what happens.
Some MPs jump up and down, write articles and make speeches. But we still have toxic ingredients all around us in the UK. And in a number of cases, the companies bringing these potentially harmful ingredients to our supermarket shelves are the very same ones funding some of our leading universities, professors, charities and their cancer drug research.
Thats how to make real profits be a part of the problem, and a part of the solution.
And so to bed
Finally, comes the really dangerous bit. Its late, cold and the heating kicks in. Downstairs the gas boiler in the kitchen burns away. You may even have cooked with gas. Whilst old appliances, and especially those with a pilot light, are a significant problem, all gas appliances can cause an increase in nitrogen dioxide levels in the home. It hasnt been proven as carcinogenic to humans, just to animals, although it is known to significantly impair the immune system and have links to arthritis.
You must vent your kitchen to the outside fully and ideally have the gas boiler in a room completely outside the house. Otherwise, the by-products of combustion like nitrogen dioxide will rise through your home, ending up in your bedroom and they can exceed maximum limits set for the gas in polluted city centres!
Still not tired, you pop into your office and flick on the computer; you have a fax to read too. VOCs (including benzene) evaporate from the computer circuitry, laser printers and fax machines in operation. Keep all these machines well away from bedrooms and in rooms which are well ventilated at all times. Dont let your children play computer games upstairs.
And so to bed. You switch on the TV but theres nothing good on, so off it goes and you get into bed, turning the lights off either side of the bed. Ah, a nice, warm, bed; at least the electric blanket works.
Have you considered that the cosy glow you feel may be in part due to the surrounding magnetic radiation? From the TV (turned off, or on standby), the electrical fields generated by the bedside electricity and the electric blanket.
At least the sheets and pillows cases are cotton, now washed in carcinogen-free products, the pillows filled with natural duck feathers not formaldehyde-leaching foamy, plastic stuff.
Sleep deeply in complete darkness and produce that wonderful melatonin. You may need it you make less as you age. I know two UK breast cancer Professors who take it as a supplement every night 1 hour before bed. Unfortunately, whilst Americans can buy this openly in their supermarket that is one thing we actually have managed to ban in the UK.
For information about toxin free products follow this link.