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Cancer and the environment

Why "green" living may be even better for you than you think.

For years, news stories have talked about how exposure to chemicals can increase your risk for certain cancers. Unfortunately, it’s very true. Your environment and the products you use and consume can have a direct impact on your likelihood to develop cancer.

So, which chemicals should you avoid? Well, I wish there was a simple answer. There are many types of chemicals, and they can appear in food, plastics, cosmetics, household products, and in the air and water.

Your risk is also affected by when you’re exposed (young children are more susceptible), for how long, at what level (how much exposure you get), how many chemicals interact you’re exposed to, and whether or not you have other risk factors for cancer (family history, etc.).

The good news is that there are many things you can do to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. A good place to start is by checking out the Breast Cancer Fund’s Tips for Prevention website, which breaks out helpful information into sections such as how to create a healthy home and how to make better food choices.

For more detailed information about the scientific link between environmental exposures and cancer risk – especially for breast cancer – read State of the Evidence, a report from the The Breast Cancer Fund.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics provides a wealth of helpful information on its website as well, including the articles What’s In Your Products? and Natural and Organic Products explained.

Of course, Kaiser Permanente is also working hard to create a healthy environment for our members and visitors. From our buildings to our commitment to community health initiatives, we’re taking action to limit your exposure to harmful chemicals. Learn more at our online Green Resource Center.

We encourage you to take a closer look at the products in your home, at the food you eat, and at the way you live to see if there are ways you can reduce your risk for exposure to harmful chemicals. It’s never too late to "go green!"

Visit the Environmental Working Group web site for more information about other toxic chemicals that are found in the food, water, air and products that we use.