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Be curious about carcinogens

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Let’s live a little, shall we, says Pearl Mathias. She suggests taking this quiz to find out how much you know about (and to become aware of) the well concealed carcinogens in our environment

Progress and technology are not always clean. Sometimes, harmful substances are introduced into our immediate environment and even in our food. And, it has become increasingly difficult to cut them out. Of course, there are some things that you can actively cut down on, such as smoking and red meat. But, there are other wily substances that you may not even realise are carcinogenic. Take this quiz to find out which substances may be damaging.

1.            Carcinogens can enter your body through the plants you eat.

                a) True.

                b) False.

2.            Construction sites emit carcinogens into the surrounding environment.

                a) True.

                b) False.

3.            Plants do not contain cancer-causing substances themselves. (They are introduced by man.)

                a) True.

                b) False.

4.            You are safe from carcinogens when you’re at home.

                a) True.

                b) False.

5.            Some food dyes have been linked to cancers.

                a) True.

                b) False.

6.            Being a regular coffee or tea drinker puts you at greater risk for cancer.

                a) True.

                b) False.

TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE ON CARCINOGENS

1. a) True.

Carcinogens can enter your system through plants that have been grown using contaminated water. Arsenic, a common cancer-causing substance, is naturally found in the air, water and soil. Ingesting arsenic over an extended period of time can result in the development of cancer. According to an article published on the medical and health information website, UPMC HealthBeat, certain substances found on plants such as aflatoxins (found in fungi and on corn and peanuts) and aristolochic acids (found in herbal medicinal plants) can also increase cancer risk.

2. a) True.

Asbestos is commonly found at construction sites. Exposure to this carcinogen can lead to lung cancer, abdominal cancer and cancer of the chest. This isn’t restricted to construction sites alone, especially since our roads and pavements are constantly under repair and maintenance. Coal tar products are also associated with a risk of cancer.

3. b) False.

Although the risk of developing cancers through the consumption of fruits and vegetables is miniscule, plants do produce organic pesticides to keep predators away. The carcinogen acetaldehyde is produced by apples, oranges, broccoli, lemons and mushrooms. Celery, lettuce and kale — the dynamic trio that features in the healthiest of smoothies — contain nitrates, which are converted to cancer-causing nitrosamine compounds in the human body.

4. b) False.

There’s no escaping carcinogens in this day and age. Everything from your floor wax to the paint on your walls emits cancer-causing agents. Vinyl chloride, a gas emitted by PVC plastic, is another carcinogen that we’re exposed to. Familiar with that new-car smell you either can’t stand or you wish would never fade away? That’s vinyl chloride you’re inhaling! Even some fabric dyes are now known to cause tumours and even cancer. However, research is being conducted to identify the use of these products, and a conscious shift is in progress as far as our clothing is concerned.

5. a) True.

Summer is here, and however tempted we may be to cool off with a vibrant neon energy drink or suck on a citrusy popsicle, remember that these alluring foods carry carcinogenic risks. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been implementing restrictions on the use of certain food dyes that may pose a great risk, there’s no denying that we’d pick colourful food over something drab and dull-looking. The good news is that several natural ingredients such as blueberry juice concentrate, carrot juice, beetroot juice and red cabbage can be used for their colouring properties without posing any risks.

6. b) True.

As if our colourful foods and super-healthy vegetables weren’t enough, these carcinogens are taking over our favourite drinks too! Well, not every coffee, tea and soup drinker is susceptible to cancer, but according to a study conducted by the World Health Organization’s Agency for Research on Cancer, drinking liquids that are hotter than 150 degrees Fahrenheit can, over a prolonged period, increase your risk of suffering from cancer of the oesophagus. So, drink your favourite hot beverages at slightly lower temperatures!

Note: Don’t let this information alarm you; it’s only meant to keep you informed. You can’t be expected to cut out every single food you eat or change every space you inhabit. Remember, it’s the amount of exposure and the period over which you have been exposed to a contaminant that play a deciding role in the development of any condition. Now that you know, you will be more aware and conscious of your surroundings and what you eat or drink.

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