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7 Things That Can and Can’t Give You Cancer

From soda to your cell phone, here are 7 things that can and can’t give you cancer.

Throughout our lives, we’re told a lot of different things about what can give you cancer. 

Maybe your mom told you not to stand too close to the microwave, or you worry about the effects of using your cellphone for too long.

From deodorants to plastic bottles to artificial sweeteners, there are a lot of theories about what you should avoid to stay cancer-free. 

But how many of these theories are based in reality?

It’s true that smoking cigarettes can increase your risk of oral and lung cancer, and that an unhealthy diet can be attributed to stomach cancer

But what about the risks associated with other common foods, drinks and products?

We’ve got the facts on 7 common products, foods and drinks that do or don’t act as carcinogens (things that can give you cancer) — and the results may surprise you.

From soda to your cell phone, here are 7 things that can and can’t give you cancer.

Can: Soda

Thanks to loads of sugar, soft drinks can wreak havoc on your teeth and your waistline. But did you know there’s an ingredient in many sodas that could increase your risk of cancer?

The dark caramel coloring added to your favorite soft drink (known as 4-methylimidazole, or 4-MEI) has been identified by the Johns Hopkins School of Health as a possible carcinogen.

Beyond cavities and the extra calories, that’s just another reason to order water instead of a cola.

Can: Grilled and Fried Meats 

Meats like fish, poultry, pork and beef that are cooked at a high temperature (like when pan frying or grilling directly over an open flame), create certain chemicals that can increase your risk of cancer. 

In an experiment, these chemicals (called Heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs) were attributed to creating cancerous tumors throughout rats’ bodies when they were fed high levels of these chemicals. 

Stick to a slow cooker or baking the next time you’re craving a home-cooked ham.

Can’t: Deodorant

You may have heard that deodorant could give you breast cancer. 

The legend goes that antiperspirants can stop your body from sweating out toxins, which leave those toxins to build up in the lymph glands under your arm and lead to breast cancer. 

According to Cancer Research UK, this myth has all the wrong details. 

Breast cancer starts in the breast and spreads to your lymph glands later. While sweating is one way that your body gets rid of toxins, it’s a different system than your lymph glands. 

Some people also worry that the aluminum in deodorants could increase your risk of cancer. But a medical review in 2014 of all available evidence found no such link.

So, use your deodorant freely — your bus mates will thank you.

Can: Candles

The chemicals in the wax of your favorite candle could be releasing toxic chemicals.
When burned, some candle fumes have been linked to increased risk of lung cancer and asthma

Lighting candles every once in a while for a relaxing night in probably won’t do any harm. But lighting paraffin candles frequently in a small unventilated space (like a bathroom) could cause some health issues down the line, so use them sparingly.

Can’t: Mobile Phones, Wi-Fi and Power Lines

Right now, there isn’t strong evidence to suggest that the radiation from your cell phone can change your cells to increase your risk of brain cancer.

The same goes for an increased risk of exposure to radiation in powerlines, or to radio waves produced by Wi-Fi — there’s no conclusive research that shows either of these sources of power can do your body harm.

So, don’t worry about using your cell phone for those long arguments with your dad about who’s the best quarterback this season — using your cell phone isn’t a health risk (although that conversation could spike your blood pressure!).

Can: Canned Food

It’s not the food itself that poses a health risk when you buy canned food, but the metal and plastic canning. 

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a carcinogenic chemical found in certain plastics that have shown to be linked to an increased risk of cancer. 

Your mom may have been right when she warned you against drinking from plastic bottles as a kid.

The plastic lining of the metal cans holding your canned food can seep into the food itself. Some studies suggest that canned soups and pasta can expose you to higher concentrations of BPA than canned vegetables and fruit.

Eating fresh produce and making your own soup when you can is always the healthiest way to go.

Yes and No: X-rays and Medical Imaging

Medical X-rays and other types of medical imaging help your doctor detect and diagnose certain illnesses — including cancer.

The health risks associated with the radiation used in medical scanning are typically low and are outweighed by the benefits of early detection and treatment for a critical condition.

But there is evidence that exposure to diagnostic X-rays can slightly increase the risk of getting diagnosed with cancer down the road — about 6 in 1,000 cancers in the UK are linked to diagnostic radiation.

So, avoid any unnecessary medical imaging or scans to be safe, but don’t worry if you need the occasional medical scan at the dentist or doctor’s office.

Medical scans and X-rays are important for early detection and treatment of cancer. Critical illness insurance can help you cover the costs of screenings and other associated medical costs not covered by your traditional health plan. 

Learn more about what critical illness insurance covers so you can focus on treatment, not bills >

Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.

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