The Ways You’re Unknowingly Increasing Your Risk of Cancer Will Make You Rethink Everything

It’s common knowledge to avoid smoking and wear sunscreen to decrease your risk of lung and skin cancer, but did you know there are certain household products and occupations you should avoid, too?

Cancer is the second largest killer in the U.S. today. Avoiding the obvious risk factors is no longer enough; if you do any of the following, you could be unknowingly increasing your risk of cancer.

You drive a lot

A woman drives down a lane.

Driving can put your lungs at risk. | BrianAJackson/iStock/Getty Images

Lung cancer has been linked to diesel exhaust emissions. You breathe in significantly higher levels of diesel exhaust by driving on heavily trafficked roads or commuting frequently.

Driving also puts you at a higher risk for skin cancer. A 2010 St. Louis School of Medicine study showed melanoma to be more prevalent on the left side of the body. Research shows that while glass blocks UVB rays, 63% of UVA rays can still come through. Lather on the sunscreen before a long drive to protect yourself from UV exposure.

You paint your nails

A hand is removing nail polish.

Your manicure might be putting you at risk. | Josfor/iStock/Getty Images

OSHA outlines a multitude of chemicals you may be exposing yourself to at the nail salon. One of these is formaldehyde, a chemical that increases your risk of cancer. Formaldehyde exposure has been linked to myeloid leukemia, sinus cancers, and nasopharynx.

Decrease how much harmful formaldehyde you take in by painting your nails in a well-ventilated room. Save money and decrease your exposure to formaldehyde by opting to paint your nails at home instead of heading to the salon.

You’re heading to the bar every night

Bartender pouring strong alcoholic drink into glasses.

Heavy drinking might cause more than just a dreaded hangover. | Bogdanhoda/iStock/Getty Images

There are many ways that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases your risk of cancer. Alcohol causes damage to body tissues, raises estrogen levels, and assists harmful chemicals (like cigarette smoke) in entering the cells.

Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk for liver, throat, mouth, esophagus, and breast cancer. A common misconception is that drinking red wine reduces your risk of cancer; there is no indication that it’s a good counteractive alcohol.

It’s suggested that ethanol, the alcohol found in alcoholic drinks, is the main risk factor. The American Cancer Society finds that it’s the amount of alcohol someone drinks over time, not the type of alcoholic beverage that’s the most important factor in raising cancer risk.

You’re eating a lot of dyed food

Macaroni salad with mayonnaise and vegetables.

Watch out for added colors and dyes in common foods. | StephanieFrey/iStock/Getty Images

Be wary of ingesting dyed foods that put you at risk for plenty of serious diseases, cancer included.

Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are dyes contaminated with cancer-causing substances. Red 3 has been identified as a carcinogen by the FDA but is still in commercial use. It’s been banned from cosmetics and external drugs but can still be legally used in food dye and ingested drugs. While the Center for Science in the Public Interest found that some of these dyes are safe for human ingestion, decrease your risk by cutting them out of your diet.

You don’t filter your tap water

Glasses of water on a table.

Water filters can catch harmful chemicals in tap water. | Tokkyneo/iStock/Getty Images

Tap water holds a ton of common carcinogens like arsenic, chromium, and chemical byproducts. Use a carbon filter like Brita to help reduce the carcinogenic levels of the contaminants in your tap water.

NBC News reported that the President’s Cancer Panel recommends drinking filtered tap water from home instead of buying bottled water. There’s no proof that bottled water is higher quality than tap, and you can avoid chemicals like BPA that exist on plastic bottles that seep into your drinking water.

You frequent the dry cleaner

Young man working in dry cleaners.

This common errand could be more dangerous than you’d think. | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

Perchloroethylene, or perc for short, is the solvent used by about 85% of U.S. dry cleaners. The Environmental Protection Agency recommended that perc be labeled as a potential human carcinogen. The National Academy of Science followed suit shortly after. Perc has been proven to cause various cancers in animals. There’s strong evidence that it’s a contributing risk factor for various cancers in humans.

Take the time and effort to wash your clothes using less toxic methods. Hand-wash clothing with mild soap or consult Green America for perc-free dry cleaning options.

You’re practicing unsafe sex

A woman holds a condom in front of a yellow background.

Protection is a must. | Grinvalds/iStock/Getty Images

Engaging in unprotected or unsafe sex can put you at risk for more than just an STI. Human papillomavirus is a commonly contracted STI and the leading cause of cervical cancer. HPV vaccinations will reduce your risk of getting the disease. However, they won’t eliminate it altogether.

Protect yourself and stay up-to-date on all of the facts you need to know about cervical cancer.