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Chemicals That Cause Cancer

Here Are Some Commonly Found Chemicals That Have Been Linked To Skin Cancer

Few people realise that many of the everyday things we are exposed to may be chemicals that cause cancer. Throughout our lives we are exposed to a wide variety of chemicals. They are in cleaning products, in pesticides used to grow the produce we purchase for our families, medications and even in things we consider innocuous such as candles.

Smoking And Skin Cancer

Smoking is one of the most common chemicals that cause skin cancer. However, a common misconception is that it only causes lung cancer. Research has shown that it can actually cause many more cancers than this. Leukoplakia and erythroplakia are oral precancerous lesions. Smoking is one of the main risk factors for these conditions. In some cases, these develop into skin cancer inside the mouth.

According to a study published in Nature Reviews Immunology in 2002, smoking can also have more damaging effects. Researchers in New Mexico found that nicotine, one of the main compounds found in cigarette smoke, suppresses the immune system. This leaves the body vulnerable to cancer and other diseases. To protect against this cancer causing chemical, you should not smoke. Care should also be taken to avoid places where you would be exposed to secondhand smoke.

Alcohol And Skin Cancer

A study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, explored the link between alcohol use and basal cell carcinoma. The researchers found a definite association. However, they did note that alcohol from beer did not affect basal cell carcinoma risk. There was an inverse relationship between women who drank red wine and cancer risk; the same was not true of male red wine drinkers. Alcohol use is also a risk factor for a condition called actinic cheilitis. This precancerous lip condition develops into squamous cell carcinoma in six to ten percent of cases. Alcohol use should be limited to help reduce your risk of cancer.

Coal Tar Product

Coal, tar and pitch are all polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, some people exposed to PAHs later developed cancer. In laboratory studies, some PAHs caused stomach, lung and skin cancer.

To protect against these chemicals that cause cancer, care should be taken to limit exposure. If working in an industry that exposes you to these chemicals, wear protective equipment whenever possible. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set limits to limit exposure.

Soot And Skin Cancer

Soot also contains PAHs. It has been linked to lung cancer. While some soot exposure is unavoidable, it should be avoided whenever possible. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has worked to protect the public with strict rules. However, there are some companies who try to get around the rules. Ideally, you want to live in an area that does not have this type of pollution in the air.


Creosote can refer to more than one thing. The most commonly used is coal tar creosote, a wood preservative. It can also refer to the carbon buildup in chimneys or the creosote bush, sometimes called chaparral. Like coal tar, creosote contains PAHs. According to EPA data, there is evidence that creosote is carcinogenic. When purchasing wood, consider untreated varieties. If you must purchase treated, look for a safer alternative. To prevent exposure when cleaning the chimney, wear a mask and gloves. You can also pay a professional to do the job!

What Is Arsenic And Where Is Arsenic Found?

Arsenic is a naturally occurring component of the earth's crust and is found in rock, soil, plants, water and in the air. It can be dispersed and transported by volcanic eruptions, soil and rock erosion and through water via rivers and underground streams. Our modern world increases the levels of inorganic arsenic (the most toxic) in our environment by industries such as glass manufacturing, timber preservation, metal smelting, burning fossil fuels, mining and in pesticides, such as rat poison and weed killers.

Arsenic in our water supply is closely regulated to ensure toxic levels are kept to a minimum, however in some areas of the world such as South America and Bangladesh, levels can be much higher. In high doses, it can have devastating effect on the human body. According to Cancer Research UK, it can increase your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer. Long term exposure to arsenic has also been linked to liver cancer. Exposure should be limited as much as possible and protective gear should be used if your work requires exposure to this or other chemicals that cause cancer.

Paraffin Wax

Some of the candles you have in your home may be made of paraffin wax. Recent research has found that paraffin wax candles give off toxic fumes when they are burned. These fumes have been linked to cancer. The researchers did note that occasional candle usage was not something to be concerned about. However, those that use candles regularly should use caution. When purchasing candles, select ones made of beeswax and soy.

The researchers stated that these did not give off toxic fumes like paraffin wax did. Also, if you regularly use candles, do so only in a well ventilated room to minimize the fumes you are exposed to.

Motor Oil

Mineral-based motor oils are made from petroleum. When used as designed to help lubricate the engine of your vehicle, it can expose you to potential carcinogens. The used oil contains PAHs, additives, metals from the motor parts and small amounts of automobile fluids including gasoline and antifreeze.

In animal research studies, long-term exposure to used oils caused skin cancer (8). Exposure can occur in one of three ways, while changing the oil in your vehicle, breathing the chemicals in through exhaust fumes or when it has contaminated soil or water. When changing the oil in your car, you should be careful to avoid getting it on your hands. If it does touch your skin, wash it immediately. Used oil should be disposed of properly to prevent soil or water contamination.


Most of us are exposed to at least one, if not more of these chemicals that cause cancer. By taking the time to protect yourself and minimize exposure, you help reduce your risk of developing cancer, as well as other health conditions.

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