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7 Everyday Habits That Can Cause Cancer

You may not smoke or sunbathe, but these actions might be raising your risk

By Beth Levine and

(This article previously appeared on

You know that smoking can cause oral and lung cancer. You’re careful about sun exposure to minimize the risk of skin cancer. You scrub your fruits and veggies to get rid of pesticides and have had your house tested for radon. But you might not know that these simple habits can up your cancer risk as well; some are just for women, some are for women and men:

Several studies have reported a positive association between use of talcum powder on women’s perineal area (from the anus to the vulva) and ovarian cancer risk. A 2010 study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that talcum powder also increases the risk of endometrial cancer, particularly among postmenopausal women. Among that group, women who used talcum powder in the perineal area once a week had a 24 percent greater chance of contracting endometrial cancer.

Most people rolled their eyes when Michael Douglas announced that he thought he got throat cancer from oral sex. However, this isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that the rising rate of oropharyngeal cancers in the United States since 1984 is caused by HPV infection acquired from oral to genital contact. Having six or more oral sex partners over a lifetime increased the risk.


A 2013 study reported in the British Medical Journal found that night-shift work increased the risk of breast cancer. After looking at 2,300 women — some of whom worked at night, some of whom didn’t — researchers found that those who had worked nights for 30 or more years were twice as likely to have developed the disease. Researchers believe melatonin suppression is the strongest link between night-shift work and cancer risk, but acknowledge that sleep disturbances, upset body rhythms, vitamin D, and lifestyle differences may also play a role.

(MORE: A Good Night's Sleep Could Ward Off Alzheimer's)

Sodas, sweetened tea, and lemonade — among other foods that have a high glycemic index — increase the risk of endometrial cancer. Those foods cause "a spike in blood sugar and insulin. Having continually high amounts of insulin can help create an environment that is conducive to endometrial cancer cells proliferating,” says Bender. In addition, sugary drinks promote obesity, which increases the risk for colorectal, postmenopausal breast, esophogeal, endometrial, kidney, pancreatic, gallbladder, and ovarian cancers.





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