Examples of "Spooky" Carcinogens


Evidence Type: Blog Post (Pro Science)
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We hear all the time about how this, that, or the other thing are going to give us cancer, often as the result of very bad or very little research having been done When this happens it can be useful to have a list of things actually demonstrated to be carcinogens, or are suspected of being carcinogens in everyday use Some of the entries on this list will be thought of as harmless, some will be thought of as dangerous but not as sources of cancer Either way the point is that just because some alternative health website tells you something has been linked to cancer is no reason to panic, remove all traces of it from your house, and demand it be banned This list is provided to help inspire discussion and rational debate on safety

Substance Classification More Info
Radiation Group 1 There are different types of radiation and in excess have been shown to significantly increase risk of cancer At the same time however radiation is all around us and simply cannot be avoided so to freak out over any source doesn't make much sense Some examples are given further down
Sunlight Group 1 It has long been understood that ultraviolet light has potential to harm skin and even cause skin cancer This doesn't mean we should cower under cover all the time
Anabolic Steroids Group 2A Not only used by those wishing to bulk up, but also used in various medical treatments One medical use of anabolic steroids even includes assisting those suffering from cancer While excessive use is classified as a carcinogen there are other significant potential health concerns likely to be more dangerous
Leather Dust Group 1 This doesn't mean that you should immediately discard everything leather in your household, but it does mean if you work with leather on a regular basis you should probably wear breathing PPE
Chinese Style Salted Fish Group 1 This one actually is a bit spooky It may be okay for a treat now and then but not something you'd want to eat on a regular basis
Frying Foods Group 2A Frying/cooking some foods at high temperatures can result in the production of carcinogenic substances within the food Of course this is not good but if you try to stick to a healthy diet is unlikely to cause significant risks, so there's no need to throw out the cooking set and eat everything raw just yet
Fireplaces Group 2A Burning wood releases many substances into the air, some of which are known carcinogens How many people have enjoyed a nice evening around a fireplace?
Shift Work Group 2A Shift work is known to have many negative effects on the human body, even to the extent of increasing the risk of cancer
Coffee Group 2B Most research has shown that drinking coffee has little or no ability to cause cancer but there has been some research saying that it does raise risks This does not mean that coffee should be banned
Alcohol Group 1 Ethanol in alcoholic beverages has been shown to have significant health risks, including increased risk of cancer It's unlikely to be banned outright any time soon however and any attempts to do so would have many up in arms about their rights to choose
Diesel Exhaust Group 1 Diesel exhaust has been classified as a group 1 carcinogen
Gasoline/Petrol Exhaust Group 2B So most of the cars you pass on the road are pumping out class 2B carcinogens Still, better than diesel
RF Fields Group 2B While it is debated if the doses experienced in every day life can cause harm, RF fields (such as those generated by computers, mobile phones, etc) have been classified as a carcinogen Go on, start a campaign to ban all mobile phones I dare you 
Certain Plants Group 2B Despite being 100% all natural many plants have defense mechanisms to prevent them from being eaten This results in some plants being thought to be carcinogenic, such as bracken/ferns


The following information is a brief description of some of the radiation information compiled by the genius running XKCD

Activity Radiation Information
Eating 1 banana 0.1µSv Bananas are good sources of potassium, a fraction of which is going to be a radioactive isotope No, this does not mean bananas are dangerous
Sleeping Beside Someone 0.05µSv Night by night, it all adds up Of course this is no reason to opt for the single life
1 day at higher than average location 11.2µSv Spending a day in a location with higher than average background radiation, such as Colorado plateau, results in a bit more radiation than an "average" day
1 "average" day 10µSv This is the radiation from the ground underneath you, the air you breath, the food and water you consume, those sorts of completely safe and every day activities
Flight from New York to LA 40µSv Going to higher altitudes mean that the atmosphere are protecting you less from radiation coming in from outer space
Living in stone/brick house for 1 year 70µSv Rocks often contain a significant number of radioactive substances That is if you're counting every type of impurity, in the big picture it's still not worth losing much sleep over
1 mammogram 400µSv It has been suggested recently that maybe mammograms should be performed less often Trying to find the perfect balance between finding and stopping cancer and increasing the risk of cancer while doing so is a careful balancing act
EPA yearly limit 1mSv This is the suggested limit on exposure to extra (non-natural) radiation
Average yearly exposure 4mSv Approximately 85% of this comes from natural sources, the lions share of the rest comes from medical scans
  100mSv Smallest yearly dose that has been clearly linked to increasing cancer Of course smaller doses can still cause problems but the odds are so small that they are difficult to measure If 4mSv is normal, and 100mSv only just starts causing problems, we're probably doing okay with the 4mSv



No strengths or weaknesses have yet been added to this evidence

Conclusion 1

Plenty of things are carcinogens, but that doesn't mean we should fear them automatically.

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