National Cancer Prevention Month: Environmental Factors That Can Cause Cancer

Awareness // February 9, 2017

During National Cancer Prevention Month in February, the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center is partnering with other cancer organizations and individuals to spread awareness about ways to prevent cancer. We previously shared some lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of cancer. In this post, we are addressing some environmental factors that can increase the risk of developing cancer.

While the world has many wonderful things in it, the sad truth is that there are also many things out there that are dangerous, and even deadly. This includes everything from certain animals and natural substances, to man-made products and synthetic materials that can harm us. Here are some of the most common environmental factors that can lead to cancer:

Sunlight – Real and Artificial

Melanoma is the most common cancer in the world, and its primary cause is exposure to sunlight. When going outside, cover your skin with clothing and 30 SPF sunscreen. (Note that SPFs over 30 does not block much more sunlight, so save your money and just buy the 30.)

Also, you probably should skip the tanning bed. Don’t be fooled by the claims of tanning bed manufacturers and salons: Bombarding your skin with electromagnetic radiation is harmful, period. There is no scientifically proven benefit to getting a “base tan,” and tanning beds use ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which does not prompt production of vitamin D like the ultraviolet A (UVA) rays found in naturally occurring sunlight. What indoor tanning does do is increase your risk of developing melanoma by 74%. That’s hardly worth it just to look good for a couple days before the tan starts to fade.


Asbestos has been linked to several forms of cancer, the most well known of which are mesothelioma and lung cancer. Asbestos was an incredibly popular material used throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in a wide variety of construction materials and consumer products. It still can be found in homes all over the United States (and other countries), and it is still being imported and used in some new products today.

The biggest danger with asbestos is breathing in tiny particles. Asbestos is a “friable” mineral, which means that it can be easily broken off and become airborne. It can travel on clothing, and is especially dangerous when exposed, disturbed, or broken. If you find asbestos in your home, the best thing to do is hire a trained professional to remove it.

Exposed to asbestos? Get help here!


Radon is naturally occurring radiation that can be a problem in places with poor ventilation, such as basements or other underground areas. Discovered at around the turn of the 20th century, radon has since been identified as a source of lung cancer, mostly due to inhalation.

The most at-risk individuals are those who work in mines or other areas where radon gas may be collected due to poor ventilation. However, radon comes up through the ground everywhere across the country, and people can be exposed to it even in their own homes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one out of every 15 homes has elevated radon levels.

The best way to find out if you and your family are in danger of radon exposure is to test your home. It is possible to test yourself, but it may be a good idea to have a professional complete the testing. If significant levels of radon are found, you may need to make updates to your home to allow proper ventilation. A certified tester or contractor can provide guidance about what may need to be done.

Talcum Powder

In just the last year, three big lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson have led to multimillion dollar verdicts for individuals who developed ovarian cancer due to the use of Johnson’s Baby Powder. The plaintiffs in these cases claimed that the talcum powder in this product lead directly to the formation of tumors in their ovaries. This is in line with several studies that have shown a link between talcum powder use in the genital region and ovarian cancer.

Talcum powder has also been linked to non-cancerous health problems as well. Despite the common name “baby powder,” the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using talc products on infants, because it can lead to respiratory problems when breathed in.

Help MAA Center Prevent Cancer!

The things above are just a few of the ways that individuals can help prevent cancer. But we need to spread awareness to make sure that as many people as possible are aware!

During National Cancer Prevention Month, here are a few things you can do to help spread awareness about the ways to stop cancer before it even starts:

  • Share this article on your favorite social media, forums, and elsewhere.
  • Write a blog post about ways that your followers can prevent cancer. (Feel free to use us as a source!)
  • Join us on Facebook and Twitter as we’ll be sharing stories throughout the month.
  • Donate to reputable cancer research organizations to help find a cure for cancer.

Thank you for helping in this important awareness effort!