5 Unexpected Cancer Causes

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Cancer is one of the leading causes of death all over the world and the body count is piling up. Below are some of the most inconspicuous ways that we may be unwittingly increasing our risk of developing the disease.

Read on to find out what the 5 most unexpected causes of cancer are! 


A 35-year long study on 16-20 years old males who were obese showed that the group who were overweight as children were twice as likely to suffer from colorectal cancer in adulthood. Furthermore, teens with chronic inflammation were 63% more likely to develop certain cancers in the long run.

This Swedish study is important because it offers a glimpse into the early stages of cancer development. The proponents of this study caution that there is an association and not necessarily a direct link between obesity and cancer. Despite the association, there is no telling yet whether the link between these two factors is casual or not. No data has been gathered regarding the boys’ diets for example, so we mustn’t jump to conclusions that link obesity and colorectal cancer.

One of the ways in which obesity can cause any type of cancer is through inflammation. Most obese people suffer from chronic inflammation because of the excess weight, and inflammation has been associated with an increased risk for cancer.


Rumor has been going around for a while that the charred portions of meat can cause cancer. Is there some truth to this? The guys at the National Cancer Institute seem to think so. Numerous researchers have found a link between high consumption of well-done, barbecued or fried meat and an increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. 

How does this happen, exactly? Heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are known mutagenics. Mutagenics are compounds that can cause a change in our DNA structure, changes that may lead to cancer. HCAs and PAHs can be formed when meat, poultry or seafood are subjected to high levels of heat, like when they are grilled on open flame or deep fried. These compounds have also been found to cause cancer in animal models. In experiments where rodents were fed diets high in HCAs and PAHs, the animals were found to develop tumors in their lungs, skin, liver, breast, gastrointestinal tracts and other organs. It is important to note that the HCAs and PHAs that were administered may or may not have come from barbecued meats and that most of these tests have been done on animals, not humans.



Diesel is used to fuel different kinds of machines, including private cars, SUVs, heavy machinery, factory assembly lines and even generators. Diesel, like all the other fossil fuels, has allowed humans to get where we are today in terms of progress. Yet, evidence is stacking up against the use of diesel and its link to an increase in cancer risk. 

Exhaust fumes from diesel engines are made up of two parts: gas and soot. The gas includes carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrocarbons, sulfur oxides and polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Soot is made up of mineral particles, carbon, and traces of PAHs. PAHs as we have previously discussed are known to cause changes in the DNA of cells that may lead to cancer.

In experiments done on animals, lab rats that were exposed to diesel exhaust fumes for a long time tend to develop lung cancer.

Several expert agencies like the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have all agreed that diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen for humans, or that it is a potential carcinogen at the very least.


Alcohol or ethyl alcohol is a group of compounds collectively (and affectionately may I add) referred to as liquid courage. Ethyl alcohol is found in our favorite Friday night drinks such as beer, wine, vodka and the occasional shot of tequila.

Besides causing killer hangovers and slowly annihilating our brain cells one by one, alcohol has been found to increase our risk for developing certain types of cancer. Going over the recommended values can increase your risk of developing liver cancer, colorectal cancer, head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer and breast cancer.

For the above mentioned types of cancer, there is strong research-backed evidence that links alcohol with cancer development. In fact, the National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has listed the consumption of alcoholic drinks as a known human carcinogen. 

In data from 2009 an estimated 3.5% of 19,500 deaths from cancer were alcohol related.


In a study by the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii and the University of Southern Carolina, 190,000 people age 45-75 were followed for seven years to gather data about the link between preserved meats and cancer. Based on the data gathered, those who ate the most amount of preserved meat were 67% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those in the population who ate the least amount of cured meat. 

Most processed meats like hotdogs and cold cuts contain copious amounts of sodium nitrite – a chemical used to inhibit microbial growth and lipid oxidation, preventing meat from going rancid. This compound has many industrial functions but during the process of cooking the sodium nitrite reacts with the amines in the meat to create N-nitroso compounds.

N-nitroso compounds are known carcinogens. 

The FDA has yet to declare food containing sodium nitrite as unsafe for consumption, but most expert agencies will advise not eating processed meat products at all.