In today’s world of information overload, it sometimes feels like everything we touch can cause cancer! But don’t worry— not all of the hazards you’ve been hearing about have been scientifically proven to cause cancer. Here, we help you tease apart myth from fact when it comes to cancer-causing agents. Find out just how much some of these supposed risk factors increase your likelihood of getting cancer.

Cell Phone Use

Concerns about a possible link between cancer and cell phone use arise from the way that cell phones work. Cell phones send and receive signals from nearby towers using RF waves, a form of energy similar to FM radio waves and microwaves. However, it has been shown that the level of RF waves given off by cell phones do not destroy DNA or heat tissues in the body.

The research on any possible link between cell phone usage and cancer is in its early stages. However, so far, several major studies have failed to find a link between cancer and cell phone use.

BPA

People are exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) primarily through eating food and drinking fluids stored in plastic containers that have BPA. There is some concern about exposing children to BPA because some studies have revealed potential effects on the brain. However, studies linking BPA and certain cancers are inconclusive. Studies are ongoing, but there currently isn’t enough evidence to directly link BPA to cancer.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently considers the substance to be acceptable for consumption at the very low levels that it appears in foods and drinks stored in BPA containers. However, The National Toxicology Program encourages people to avoid microwaving food in plastic containers and putting plastics in the dishwasher to prevent additional BPA from leaching into food and drink.

Cooked Meat

Cooking meat at high temperatures, such as on a grill on fried in a pan, causes Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) chemicals to form. PAHs can also form using other cooking methods, such as smoking meats.

These chemicals have been linked to cancer in animals, but what about humans? It’s unclear whether the effects are the same, but some studies have identified a possible link. Many health professionals recommend limiting your consumption of red, smoked, and processed meats to lower your risk, particularly for colorectal cancer.

Want to continue consuming meat but lower your risk? Adopting a more plant-based diet is one way to cut down on your HCA and PAH levels. Avoiding high-temperature cooking methods that use smoke, such as grilling, can also help you lower the PAH levels in your meats.

UV Rays

Whether you get it from tanning beds or sunshine, ultraviolet (UV) rays are proven to cause skin cancer -- the most common type of cancer in the United States. UV rays contain both UVA and UVB, types of radiation that can damage skin cells’ DNA. When that damage affects skin cell growth, you get skin cancer.

The primary ways to limit your UV exposure? Avoid going outside during the brightest hours of the day, seek shady spots when you need to be outside for a long period of time, and wear a daily sunscreen along with full-coverage outerwear that will shield you from the sun’s harmful rays.

Extra Body Fat

According to the CDC, being obese increases your risk of at least 13 types of cancer. This includes some of the most common types, such as uterine cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Current research suggests that fat cells can produce substances that stimulate growth in the body. This increases cell division, which provides more opportunity for cancer to form. The American Institute for Cancer Research categorizes maintaining a health weight as one of the most important ways to protect against cancer.

Adopting a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining an active lifestyle are the best ways to reduce body fat in the long-term.

Smoking

In the world of cancer-causing agents, nothing looms larger than cigarette smoking. It is proven to cause stomach, kidney, bladder, and cervical cancers, among many others. In fact, smoking and secondhand smoke exposure is the cause of 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in the country. If you are smoking, quit as soon as possible. It’s never too late to reduce your risk of contracting cancer.

Get Screened

No matter how healthy you may be, there is always some risk of developing cancer. The best way to combat this is by getting screened regularly and ensuring that you make healthy decisions.

The University of Maryland Cancer Network, a collection of cancer centers collaborating together with NCI-designated UM Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center as its hub, offers free cancer screening and educational seminars across Maryland every year.

Learn about reducing your risk and get screened. Find a primary care doctor near you.