5 Ways Environmental Damage Can Increase Cancer Risk

As per a report by Our World in Data, cancer reportedly kills 10 million people every year. The situation is worse in developing and least developed countries, where the healthcare sector is not very developed. However, even developed countries and their people fall victim to cancer.

Blaming the healthcare system for not being able to combat cancer cases would be wrong. Instead, fingers should be pointed at the root causes of cancer.

While one can work out many such causes, environmental damage and how it increases cancer risk is one cause that requires our urgent attention. That’s exactly what this article intends to do as it will walk you through a few ways how damaging the environment can increase cancer risk.

#1 Air Pollution

Air pollution, primarily caused by industrial emissions, vehicle exhaust, and burning fossil fuels, is a well-known environmental hazard. Inhaling polluted air introduces harmful substances into our respiratory system, which can lead to various respiratory diseases, including lung cancer.

Particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and toxic gasses released into the air increase the risk of developing cancer in the lungs, throat, and even bladder. Reducing air pollution through stricter emission standards, promoting renewable energy sources, and encouraging public transportation can significantly decrease cancer risk.

#2 Water Contamination

Water contamination can result from various sources, such as industrial waste, agricultural runoff, and improper disposal of hazardous materials. When these pollutants seep into water sources, they can contaminate the drinking water supply and have severe health implications.

Certain chemicals and heavy metals found in contaminated water, like arsenic and lead, have been linked to an increased risk of cancer, including liver, kidney, and bladder cancer.

The fact that water contamination can lead to cancer was heavily focused on in the Camp Lejeune water contamination cases. As per the Camp Lejeune lawsuit, over a million people present at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina between 1953 and 1987 may have been exposed to water containing toxic substances. This contamination was caused by several spills and leaks from underground storage tanks, waste disposal sites, businesses, and so on.

According to TorHoerman Law, it was eventually found that many of those exposed to this contaminated water ended up developing various types of cancer, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, etc. Right now, the Camp Lejeune victims are lawyering up to seek compensation and justice for the sufferings they’ve had to endure for this contamination incident.

The Camp Lejeune incident acts as a grave reminder of how water contamination can lead to cancer.

#3 Chemical Exposure

Chemicals are ubiquitous in our daily lives, present in household products, industrial processes, and agriculture. Exposure to harmful chemicals, such as pesticides, solvents, and industrial pollutants, can significantly impact our health. Some of these chemicals are known as carcinogens, capable of damaging DNA and increasing the likelihood of cancer development.

Occupational exposure in industries such as mining, manufacturing, and construction also poses a particular risk. Implementing stringent safety measures, promoting organic alternatives, and advocating for safer chemical regulations can help minimize exposure to carcinogenic substances.

#4 Deforestation and Habitat Destruction

The rampant deforestation and habitat destruction taking place worldwide have severe consequences for both the environment and human health. Forests play a critical role in absorbing carbon dioxide, reducing air pollution, and providing a habitat for countless species.

With the loss of these vital ecosystems, air quality deteriorates, and the risk of cancer escalates.

Deforestation contributes to increased exposure to harmful pollutants and reduces the availability of natural resources that possess anticancer properties. Preserving and restoring forests and protected habitats are crucial in reducing cancer risk and maintaining ecological balance.

#5 Climate Change

The adverse effects of climate change have far-reaching consequences. According to the National Cancer Institute, not only do these changes contribute to environmental damage in general, but they are also responsible for the deterioration of human health, including amplifying the risk of cancer. In a way, climate change acts as the driving force that leads to many other factors, like air pollution, to cause cancer.

Climate change affects the distribution of infectious diseases, alters the availability and quality of food, and increases exposure to harmful substances. For instance, prolonged heat waves and extreme temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses and skin cancer.

Additionally, changing rainfall patterns can affect the growth of crops, leading to food shortages and malnutrition, which in turn can increase the susceptibility to cancer.

Without addressing the root causes of climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and embracing sustainable practices, we can’t mitigate these risks. If that happens, it will become extremely difficult to protect future generations from severe health problems like cancer.


According to the American Cancer Society, the cancer situation across the world will only grow worse in the coming years. It’s predicted that come 2040, there will be 27.5 million new cancer cases and over 16 million cancer deaths.

Despite advancements in healthcare science and technology, factors like smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, etc., are increasing cancer risks. Not to mention, the rate at which our environment is deteriorating is also going to play a major role in this growth in cancer cases and deaths.

However, all is not lost yet with the cancer situation. As long as we take the necessary actions now, it might be possible to prevent this problem from escalating further, at least to some extent.

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