Avoid Carcinogens at Work and at Home
Because people spend so much time at work and at home, assessments should be made of possible carcinogens in these environments. Some occupational carcinogens have been identified because people who work together and have been exposed to the same substances have developed a particular kind of cancer at increased frequency. For example, cancer rates in construction workers who handle asbestos have been found to be much higher than normal. A potential hazard in the home is radon, a radioactive gas that can seep into houses from underground rock formations found in certain areas of the country. Simple test kits for radon are available.
The fact that many environmental chemicals can cause cancer has fostered the idea that industrial pollution is a frequent cause of cancer. However, the frequency of most human cancers (adjusted for age) has remained relatively constant over the past half century, in spite of increasing industrial pollution. Hence, in spite of evidence that industrial chemicals can cause cancer in people who work with them or in people who live nearby, industrial pollution does not appear to be a major cause of most cancers in the population at large.
Is There a Cancer 'Epidemic'?
A related misconception arises from stories that sometimes appear in the news suggesting that we are now experiencing a cancer "epidemic." It is true that a person's chance of developing cancer within his or her lifetime is almost twice as great today as it was a half century ago, which means that doctors are seeing more cases of cancer than they did in the past. However, this increase is caused largely by the facts that people are living longer and cancer is more prevalent in older people.
When corrected for the increasing average age of the population, cancer rates in the United States have actually been stable or even falling slightly in the past several years. Much of the rise prior to that was due to cigarette smoking, a well established and avoidable cause of cancer.