Everyday Habits That Dramatically Increase Your Chances of Getting Cancer

“Cancer” is one of the scariest words in the English language. Even as our knowledge grows and the treatment options expand, it’s still a disease no one wants to ever endure. We should all do what we can to prevent it.

While some cancer diagnoses remain a mystery, we do know of a few ways to increase — and reduce — our risks. The foods we eat, the lifestyle we live, and even the jobs we have can all contribute to our risk factors.

Not all cancers are created equal

Young cancer patient standing in front of hospital window.

Each patient will undergo a treatment unique to their needs. | Prudkov/iStock/Getty Images

While cancer is a diagnosis no one wants to receive, and all cancer is serious business, some types are definitely deadlier than others. Lung and bronchial cancer, bladder cancer, and brain cancer are some of the most fatal types, while some, like ovarian cancer, have high survival rates as long as they’re caught early.

If you’re guilty of any of these seemingly harmless tendencies, you could be putting your health at risk.

You’re (still) smoking

A cigarette being held against a dark background.

The bad habit that can cause cancer. | iStock.com

By now, it’s common knowledge that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It’s also one of the biggest cancer risks. In fact, smoking has been found to harm nearly every bodily organ and system in the body. Even if you do nothing else to improve your health, quitting smoking can add years to your life.

You’re grilling a lot of meats

A family is grilling food on a patio.

Give the grill a break every once in a while. | Thinkstock.com

The link between eating meat and cancer risk is still being studied and debated. But cooking beef, pork, fish, or poultry using high temperature methods like pan frying or grilling can cause chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to form. These chemicals have been linked to cancer in animals, according to the National Cancer Institute.

There’s no need to become a vegetarian, but if you cut back on grilled meats and skip the well-done steaks, your health will thank you.

You’re storing your cell phone in your bra or pocket

A cell phone is being kept in a person's jean back pocket.

Keep your phone in your purse or backpack. | Jolkesky/iStock/Getty Images

Your bra (or pocket) might seem like a harmless place to stash your phone, but it’s actually very dangerous. Devra Davis, Ph.D., has documented seven cases of young women who have developed cancerous tumors in the center of the breast where they carried their cell phones for 10 years. Men who carry their phones in their pockets are also at risk.

Carry your phone in a holster or in your purse to keep the radiation away from your body. Long-term risks of cell phones still haven’t been studied extensively, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You drink a lot of alcohol

Bartender pouring strong alcoholic drink into glasses.

Drinking excessively could increase your risk of developing cancer. | Bogdanhoda/Getty images

You may have heard that having a glass of wine everyday can lower your cancer risk. But since cancer has been directly linked to alcohol consumption, you may want to consider cutting back on the drinking.

When alcohol metabolizes, it produces a carcinogen in the body. Acetaldehyde, the carcinogen, further metabolizes into acetate, and finally into water and carbon dioxide. Drinking has been shown to increase the risk of colorectal, breast, esophageal, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and liver cancers.

Current recommendations for safe consumption are one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.

You never exercise

A woman does a shoulder workout at a gym and smiles.

An active workout is important in keeping cancer away. | Boggy22/iStock/Getty Images

Do you go straight from your desk job to your couch daily? Not only is inactivity linked to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, but according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, it can also increase your risk of several types of cancers.

If you live a sedentary life, try and work your way up to a 30 minute walk on most days. You’ll notice a difference in your energy levels, your waistline, and you’ll help your body stay cancer-free.

Try not to stress

A young woman meditates on top of a yoga mat in her bedroom.

Create a healthy lifestyle for yourself. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

The phrase “cancer risk” itself is pretty stressful. But even though stress is a part of life, chronic stress has a profound impact on the way your body functions. And while no direct link to cancer has been proven, we do know that chronic stress promotes the growth and spread of diseases. It certainly makes your body more hospitable to cancer.

Take good care of your body. Get plenty of sleep, practice yoga or medication, and see a professional if your stress is out of control. This will improve the quality of your life.