What May Cause Cancer


Cancers are primarily an environmental disease. Most cases are attributed to environmental factors. "Environmental" means any cause that is not inherited genetically.

Common environmental factors that contribute to cancer death include tobacco, diet and obesity, infections, radiation, stress, lack of physical activity, and environmental pollutants.

smokingIt is nearly impossible to prove what caused a cancer in any individual, because most cancers have multiple possible causes. For example, if a person who uses tobacco heavily develops lung cancer, then it was probably caused by the tobacco use, but since everyone has a small chance of developing lung cancer as a result of air pollution or radiation, then there is a small chance that the cancer developed because of air pollution or radiation.

Occupational Cancer Risks

Every year, at least 200,000 people die worldwide from cancer related to their workplace. Most cancer deaths caused by occupational risk factors occur in the developed world. It is estimated that approximately 20,000 cancer deaths and 40,000 new cases of cancer each year in the U.S. are attributable to occupation. Millions of workers run the risk of developing cancers such as lung cancer and mesothelioma from inhaling asbestos fibers and tobacco smoke, or leukemia from exposure to benzene at their workplaces.

Contributing Factors

  • Diet and Exercise

    In the United States, excess body weight is associated with the development of many types of cancer. Physical inactivity is believed to contribute to cancer risk, not only through its effect on body weight, but also through negative effects on the immune and endocrine systems.

    Diets that are low in vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and high in processed or red meats are linked with a number of cancers. A high salt diet is linked to gastric cancer, aflatoxin B1, a frequent food contaminate, with liver cancer, and Betel nut chewing with oral cancer. This may partly explain why gastric cancer is more common in Japan with its high salt diet and colon cancer is more common in the United States. Immigrants develop the risk of their new country, often within one generation, suggesting a substantial link between diet and cancer.

  • Infection

    Some cancer deaths are related to infectious diseases. This proportion varies in different regions of the world. Viruses are the usual infectious agents that cause cancer, but bacteria and parasites may also have an effect. A virus that can cause cancer is called an oncovirus. These include human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus herpesvirus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, and Human T-cell leukemia virus-1. Bacterial infection may also increase the risk of cancer. Parasitic infections strongly associated with cancer include Schistosoma haematobium and the liver flukes, Opisthorchis viverrini and Clonorchis sinensis.

  • Radiation

    Some invasive cancers are related to radiation exposure, both ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Sources of ionizing radiation include medical imaging and radon gas. Radiation can cause cancer in most parts of the body, in all animals, and at any age. Radiation is a more potent source of cancer when it is combined with other cancer-causing agents, such as radon gas exposure plus smoking tobacco.

    • Medical use of ionizing radiation is a growing source of radiation-induced cancers. Ionizing radiation may be used to treat other cancers, but this may, in some cases, induce a second form of cancer. It is used in some kinds of medical imaging.
    • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can lead to melanoma and other skin malignancies. Clear evidence establishes ultraviolet radiation, especially the non-ionizing medium wave UVB, as the cause of most non-melanoma skin cancers, which are the most common forms of cancer in the world.
    • Non-ionizing radio frequency radiation from mobile phones, electric power transmission, and other similar sources have been described as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer.
  • Heredity

    The vast majority of cancers are non-hereditary. Hereditary cancers are primarily caused by an inherited genetic defect. Less than 0.3% of the population are carriers of a genetic mutation which has a large effect on cancer risk. Some of these syndromes include: certain inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 with a more than 75% risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome) which is present in about 3% of people with colorectal cancer, among others.

  • Physical Agents

    Some substances cause cancer primarily through their physical, rather than chemical, effects on cells. A prominent example of this is prolonged exposure to asbestos, naturally occurring mineral fibers which are a major cause of mesothelioma, a type of lung cancer. Other substances in this category, including both naturally occurring and synthetic asbestos-like fibers such as wollastonite, attapulgite, glass wool, and rock wool, are believed to have similar effects. Nonfibrous particulate materials that cause cancer include powdered metallic cobalt and nickel, and crystalline silica. Usually, physical carcinogens must get inside the body (such as through inhaling tiny pieces) and require years of exposure to develop cancer.

    Physical trauma resulting in cancer is relatively rare. Claims that breaking a bone resulted in bone cancer, for example, have never been proven. Similarly, physical trauma is not accepted as a cause for cervical cancer, breast cancer, or brain cancer. One accepted source is frequent, long-term application of hot objects to the body. It is possible that repeated burns on the same part of the body, such as those produced by charcoal hand warmers, may produce skin cancer, especially if carcinogenic chemicals are also present. Frequently drinking scalding hot tea may produce esophageal cancer.

  • Hormones

    Some hormones play a role in the development of cancer by promoting cell proliferation. Hormones are important agents in sex-related cancers such as cancer of the breast, endometrium, prostate, ovary, and testis, and also of thyroid cancer and bone cancer. An individual's hormone levels are mostly determined genetically, so this may at least partly explains the presence of some cancers that run in families that do not seem to have any cancer-causing genes.

    For example, the daughters of women who have breast cancer have significantly higher levels of estrogen and progesterone than the daughters of women without breast cancer. These higher hormone levels may explain why these women have higher risk of breast cancer, even in the absence of a breast cancer gene. Similarly, men of African ancestry have significantly higher levels of testosterone than men of European ancestry, and have a correspondingly much higher level of prostate cancer.

    However, non-genetic factors are also relevant: obese people have higher levels of some hormones associated with cancer and a higher rate of those cancers. Women who take hormone replacement therapy have a higher risk of developing cancers associated with those hormones. On the other hand, people who exercise far more than average have lower levels of these hormones, and lower risk of cancer.  

  • Other Causes

    Excepting the rare transmissions that occur with pregnancies and only a marginal few organ donors, cancer is generally not a transmissible disease. The main reason for this is tissue graft rejection caused by MHC incompatibility. In humans and other vertebrates, the immune system uses MHC antigens to differentiate between "self" and "non-self" cells because these antigens are different from person to person. When non-self antigens are encountered, the immune system reacts against the appropriate cell. Such reactions may protect against tumor cell engraftment by eliminating implanted cells.

    Cancer is fundamentally a disease of failure of regulation of tissue growth. In order for a normal cell to transform into a cancer cell, the genes which regulate cell growth and differentiation must be altered. Typically, changes in many genes are required to transform a normal cell into a cancer cell. Genetic changes can occur at different levels and by different mechanisms. The gain or loss of an entire chromosome can occur through errors in mitosis. More common are mutations, which are changes in the nucleotide sequence of genomic DNA.

What May Cause Pancreatic Cancer

Acidity and the Pancreas

Some parts of the body are naturally more alkaline than others. Highly alkaline glands like the pancreas and liver are the most susceptible to acidic damage. Pancreatic juice has a pH level between 7.8 - 8.0. Bile from the liver has a pH between 7.5 - 8.8. But when the acidity of the whole body becomes higher, pancreatic juices and bile also become more acidic. Acidic pancreatic juices and bile may become destructive and irritate the surrounding tissues of the pancreas and liver, causing inflammation, stones, ulcers and even cancer.

Acidic Bile Reflux

Overly-acidic bile also causes reflux (the backflow of bile through the pancreatic duct), up the small intestine, into the stomach, and up into the esophagus. Likewise, bile reflux affects the duodenum and stomach, causing inflammation, ulcers and cancer. Acid reflux and bile reflux often appear together, further inflaming the lining of the esophagus and increasing the possibility of esophageal cancer.

Another concern of high body overall acid toxicity is biliary pancreatic reflux (when the bile backs up into the pancreatic duct). This back-up of bile may trigger an attack of acute pancreatitis and exacerbate the problems of chronic pancreatitis.

Gallbladder Stones

Acidic bile is also thought to be a major factor in the development of gallbladder stones. Gallbladder stones can cause severe damage to the pancreas and liver through the blockage of pancreatic and bile ducts. When the blood becomes too acidic, it is difficult for pancreatic cells to acquire the necessary minerals and bicarbonates essential to the production of sufficiently alkaline pancreatic juice.

Acidosis may be a contributing factor to pancreatic cancer. We need to understand the important role a properly alkalized body plays in restoring and maintaining overall health. Our glands and organs function properly in exact proportion to the alkaline and acid levels in our system.

What May Cause Breast Cancer

preventing breast cancerAcidosis could be a major contributor to most diseases and cancers, including breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and even skin cancer. Acidosis may cause body tissue to become acidified. Acidified body tissue lacks the proper amount of oxygen required to keep them healthy. Unhealthy body tissue may develop into cancerous cells in any part of your body.

There are two factors that are always present with cancer cells: (1) an acidic pH and (2) a lack of oxygen. Both factors are produced by acidosis.

What Might Cause Acidosis? Acidosis is often the result of eating acid-forming diets, but can also result from medications and medical conditions such as severe forms of diabetes and viruses.

Since acid-forming diets may contribute to the development of Acidosis, implementing a healthy diet such as The AAA Diet® may help restore your health. This diet will supply your body with the full complement of vitamins, minerals and nutrients required for you to attain better health, power, strength and endurance.