A review of cancer statistics from extensive sources reveals that places with poorer environmental quality can put you at greater risk for developing cancer.

The urban life attracts many with prospects of higher incomes, busier lives, cutting-edge technology and fashion, and a more diverse, fun environment. But experts are finding that you may be trading your health for a better lifestyle by moving into busy cities. They found that poor quality environments can increase your risk for cancer.

Researchers went through numerous statistics from many governmental health agencies, including the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the EPA, and tried to find a correlation between cancer incidence and air quality, transportation and housing safety, water quality, pesticide exposure and contamination, and exposure to crime. They found that places which are lower overall in these environmental qualities have higher incidences of cancer.

They found that prostate and breast cancer rates were the most sensitive to environmental quality. That means that living in an area that exposes you to a lower quality environment puts you at greater risk for these two cancers.

Sadly, they also found that the more urbanized a place is, the lower the environmental quality tends to be. Highly urbanized places, like major cities, were found to have the lowest environmental quality. But even almost unpopulated rural areas can have a lower quality environment compared with a more populated suburban area if these rural areas have more pesticide exposure from farming or some other outstanding lower environmental factor.

How to Protect Yourself From Environmental Cancer Risks

But often it’s not possible to choose the environment you live in. Financial situations may force you to move to more polluted cities. Also, you shouldn’t give up your life goals for better environmental quality because the increased cancer risks aren’t as significant as something on the level of smoking cigarettes or using a tanning bed. While it isn’t possible to avoid all increased risks of developing cancer coming from your environment, there are many proactive things you can do to lower these risks significantly:

1. Test Your Water

Water quality is one of the environmental factors used in the review. Many cities across the U.S. have outdated irrigation systems that leak lead and other pollutants into their tap water. If you remember the Flint, Michigan lead contamination crisis, then you should know that Providence, Rhode Island children recently were found to have levels of lead in their bodies that are 300 percent over dangerous levels. Recent tests also found that some homes’ tap water in Portland contain lead levels that exceed EPA’s health hazard limits.

Besides increasing your risk for cancer, continuing to introduce contaminated water into your system has been found to lower your cognition and overall brain power. The impact is so significant that children who were exposed to lead in their drinking water ended up with such lower IQ and cognitive abilities that their socioeconomic status was lower than their parents even at age 38!

Given these findings on lead-contaminated cities and this new review linking environmental quality and cancer risk, it’s not a coincidence that Portland, Flint, and Providence are both highly urbanized places and have notorious lead water levels. If you live in a highly or somewhat urbanized location, there’s a chance your tap water may be contaminated too.

But no matter where you live, it’s best if you run your own tests on your tap water to see if it’s safe for consumption. Local government agencies only test a few homes’ tap water and assume nearby homes have similar results. That means you shouldn’t assume your home’s tap water has been tested and officially approved as safe for drinking.

2. Avoid Outdoor Air Pollution and Control Indoor Air Pollution

It’s difficult to control the air pollution you’re exposed to if you’re living in a major city. But there’s still a few things you can do to lessen your exposure.

Try to leave before rush hours. Commuting when there’s less traffic means you’ll likely be exposed to less smog. Try to pick routes with less traffic and fewer smoke-spewing buildings (like restaurants or industrial areas). Doing these two things will greatly reduce your exposure to outdoor air pollution.

When at home, you can minimize indoor air pollution by vacuuming more often to reduce the dust you breathe in. Don’t use scented candles or artificial air fresheners because there’s evidence they vaporize chemicals that can disrupt your endocrine system and cause cancer. Instead, use a doctor-recommended air purifier that cleans the air of odor-causing particles and dust. Remember to change your HVAC filters and air purifier filters regularly to maximize their air filtration.

You should also cultivate houseplants, which boost your indoor oxygen supply and naturally remove harmful vaporized pollutants (like benzene and formaldehyde) emitted from electronics. These are vital for your home office, which may have higher levels of these cancer-causing pollutants coming from your printer and computers. But formaldehyde and some other dangerous pollutants are also released by a few paints, varnishes, paper products, foam insulation, and other fixtures that came with your urban rental. Thankfully, household plants have been shown to lower formaldehyde levels in the air by about 600 percent. These researchers found that ferns are the best houseplants for removing formaldehyde from indoor air.

3. Wash or Boil Your Produce

Pesticide exposure is another environmental factor the review took into consideration. You can lessen pesticide exposure from the air by wearing long-sleeved tops and pants. Wearing clothes that cover more of your body means less pesticides can make contact with your skin and get absorbed into your body.

But you must also wash your fruits and vegetables to remove more pesticide residues. The National Pesticide Information Center advises to wash and rub your produce by hand under a strainer to get more pesticide residues out. If you’re eating the produce raw, then you should also wash with a diluted solution of vinegar to kill harmful microbes.

Research shows that boiling your produce ultimately removes the most pesticide residues. They found that boiling fruits and vegetables removes between 50 to 100 percent of pesticide residues, whereas simply washing and rubbing produce only removes between 20 to 89 percent.

Removing as much pesticides from your food as possible helps lessen your overall pesticide exposure.

4. Be Vigilant About Your Housing and Transportation

Not everyone follows the law, and surely you’ve gone over the speed limit at least once when driving. The same applies to landlords and transportation companies. Housing and transportation safety is another environmental factor that can increase your risk for developing cancer. Make sure where you’re staying and what you’re riding are currently following all codes and regulations.

Also make sure your home isn’t built with asbestos, lead-based paint, and other health hazards. If during your checks you find that your housing or transportation might be exposing you to unnecessary harmful pollutants, then you should choose different providers to avoid these potential increased cancer risks.

You can’t avoid all the health risks your environment poses. But now that you’re aware of certain aspects of your environmental that can contribute to causing cancer, you can proactively lessen their impact on your body. Although living in an ideal, safe place would be best, you shouldn’t give up on your ambitions by actively avoiding highly urbanized places. Strive for your goals and protect your health along the way!