Don’t assume vaping is better than smoking
It’s not news that smoking causes cancer—but you might not know that e-cigarettes do, too. A recent study from Portland State University found significant levels of benzene, a cancer-causing chemical, in e-cigarette vapors. Other research has found formaldehyde as well. Dr. Francis says that vaping can be a bridge to quitting smoking—but, the trend of young people heading straight to vaping is worrisome. “The act of vaping is so similar to smoking, and the nicotine so addictive that the act of smoking is being renormalized,” Stanley Marks, MD, the chair of UPMC’s Cancer Center, wrote on the university’s website.
Color your hair safely
An analysis from Finland found a 23 percent increase in the risk of breast cancer among women who dyed their hair, suggesting chemicals in hair dye could be unsafe. “Some hair dyes, especially the semi-permanent and permanent ones, do penetrate into the hair follicle,” says Dr. Concepcion Diaz-Arrastia, an associate professor of gynecologic oncology at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann. “Some of the hair dyes use chemicals classified as aromatic amines, which are carcinogenic in lab animals. Plant-based hair dyes may be a better option.”
Get the HPV vaccine
Although there’s been much debate about the safety of the HPV vaccine, the scientific evidence shows it’s safe and effective against cervical cancer. “The new 9v Gardasil HPV vaccine will decrease the risk of cervical cancer by an extraordinary 90 percent,” Dr. Diaz-Arrastia says. “This means that if we implement comprehensive vaccination for boys and girls aged 11 to 14, the 10,000 annual cases of cervical cancer in U.S. would decrease to 1,000 women annually. Globally, over 200,000 lives of women would be saved.” Women should still be screened with a Pap and HPV test as well, she says, but these only need to be done every three to five years, depending on your age. In addition, “the HPV vaccines include HPV16, which is responsible for more than 90 percent of all HPV-associated head and neck cancers,” Dr. Burk says. Although the vaccine is generally recommended only until age 26, Dr. Burk says people above that age can still get it. “Receipt of the vaccine after 26 still has efficacy,” he says. “So individuals over 26 might still benefit from the vaccine if they are at risk for exposure to HPV—although they would likely have to pay out of pocket.” Here’s what doctors wish you knew about cervical cancer.