You’ve probably heard the word “carcinogen” pop up in news stories and wondered what that means for your everyday life. The word “toxic” is also used loosely when referring to various ingredients. Women over 50 are very likely to have been exposed to many toxic and carcinogens in their life because many beauty products contain ingredients like this.
What is Carcinogen?
A carcinogen is something that can cause you to have cancer. It may be a substance in the air, a product you use, or a chemical in foods and drinks. Contact with a carcinogen doesn’t mean that you’ll get cancer. Your chance of getting sick depends on many things. How much you’ve been exposed to it is part of it. Your genes also play a role.
What is Toxic?
You can’t see, smell, or taste them, but they’re in hundreds of products you use every day. What is a toxic ingredient and what makes it toxic?
How do they decide on the label?
Researchers use different methods to decide whether something should be called a carcinogen or toxic. Large doses of a substance can be given to lab animals to see if they develop cancer or any other side effects. Scientists also study the results of many studies to create some conclusions on what ingredients and substances may develop cancer in our bodies.
Tobacco is a carcinogen
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a smoker or breathing in someone else’s smoke. There are at least 70 chemicals in tobacco that are known to cause cancer by damaging your DNA. Inhaling any form of smoke will have you breathing in carcinogens. Smokeless tobacco may seem safer, but it too can lead to cancer. Light smoking, or only smoking 1 cigarette per day raises your risk, so talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
UV rays are a carcinogen
Studies show that ultraviolet (UV) rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, get absorbed into your skin and damage the cells there. Most skin cancer cases are due to UV rays and not sunlight. Pollution and climate change make these rays stronger. To stay safe, protect your skin with sunscreen, wear a hat and sunglasses, and avoid tanning salons.
Crispy, Brown Foods have carcinogens
When some vegetables, like potatoes, are heated to high temps, they can give off a chemical called acrylamide. Acrylamide in food forms from sugars and an amino acid that are naturally present in food; it does not come from food packaging or the environment. Acrylamide caused cancer in animals in studies where animals were exposed to very high doses of acrylamide.
Phthalates are toxic
Nearly all Americans have phthalate byproducts in their urine. This a good reason to learn as much as you can about them.
You can’t see, smell, or taste phthalates. These chemicals are in hundreds of products women over 50 use every day. Phthalates are chemicals used in many products to add solubility and plasticity to the finished product. You can find them in:
- Cosmetics and personal care products, from perfume, nail polish, and hair spray to soap, shampoo, and skin moisturizers
- Medical tubing and fluid bags
- Wood finishes, detergents, adhesives, plastic plumbing pipes, lubricants, solvents, insecticides, building materials, and vinyl flooring
- Food, especially meat and dairy products and fast food
While we can not escape every toxic ingredient and carcinogen, avoiding high concentrations of these substances is advisable. Pollution is in the air that we all breathe in, but applying a petro-chemical based lotion on our skin every day is very harmful. The key to avoiding potentially harmful substances and ingredients is to read the product label. Not all products truly are “All-Natural”. You can cross-reference the hard to understand scientific names with the EWG database.