What is a carcinogen?

Merriam-Webster defines a carcinogen as a substance or agent that causes cancer. But cancer development can come from all sorts of things, right? After all aren’t the only people at risk of developing cancer the ones with a family history? Well, actually over 90% of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease. So if the overwhelming majority of those diagnosed weren’t born with it, then why did they get it?

For the 10% of people out there that are diagnosed because of their family history – go ahead and point the finger at your mom or ancestors. But for the rest of us – overwhelmingly most of us – we are left wondering “how this could happen and what’s actually causing it?”

So back to that dreaded “C-word.” A carcinogen damages our DNA, which results in cancer. Cancer begins with the alteration of our DNA and is then responsible for abnormal growth of cells within the body.

Ready for the scary part? Carcinogens can be found in obvious things that we have known for years to avoid, like cigarettes, but it is suspected that they can also be found in certain cookware, most makeup products, various plastics, baby powder, shampoos and conditioners, in our food, in our toothpaste, even in the furniture we sit on!

You would think that these chemicals have been banned, right? If we know they cause cancer why the heck would big companies be allowed to continue putting these into products we put in, on, and around ourselves and our children every day? The European Union and many other governments have already begun taking a stand on these issues by banning over 1,100 suspected harmful chemicals while the FDA’s last action on the issue in 2010 only managed to ban 10. Recent legislation was passed in May that gives the EPA power over some of these chemicals but their official testing will take years and we are not likely to see any action until 2022, if not longer.

In the next few weeks we are going to identify some of the suspected big offenders and hopefully get you thinking about and making changes to your life, creating a healthier you.