Published October 04, 2013
Seems like all the really fun stuff causes cancer. But sometimes, you can indulge. We break down your bad habits (bacon's just the beginning).
Bad habit: Your morning bacon fix
Bacon makes everything better—except your health. People who ate the most processed meats (2.5 slices of bacon or sausage links a day) were 19 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer in a recent study. Smoked and cured meats contain a type of iron that may damage intestinal cells and lead to colon and rectal cancer as well, said Alice Bender, registered dietician, of the American Institute for Cancer Research. Preservatives called nitrites and nitrates might also break down into damaging by-products that make cells more vulnerable to cancer.
You can get away with: A once-a-month dose of processed meat.
"If everyone cut back from daily to monthly and lived an otherwise healthy life, we could reduce colon and rectal cancer risk by about half," Bender said.
Eggs Benedict once a month? Sold!
Bad habit: A couple cocktails
Sad but true, alcohol accounts for roughly 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths—nearly 20,000—in the United States a year. (The majority of victims have more than three drinks a day.) Ethanol causes inflammation, compromises your body's ability to absorb critical nutrients, raises estrogen levels and promotes weight gain, all of which further increase cancer risk.
Related: 20 Superfoods For Weight Loss
You can get away with: One alcoholic beverage a day if you're a woman (two if you're a guy), says the American Cancer Society (ACS). That means one 12-ounce beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of liquor.
And no, you can't save up for Friday: "Alcohol may be particularly damaging to cells above a certain blood-alcohol-level threshold," Dr. Timothy Naimi, an alcohol researcher at Boston Medical Center, said.
Bad habit: That Saturday-night cig
Every puff floods your pipes with a Molotov cocktail of at least 70 cancer-causing agents, including formaldehyde (used to embalm dead bodies) and benzene, an ingredient in gasoline. Besides being directly responsible for 80 percent of female lung cancer deaths in America every year, cigarette smoke causes damage to the mouth and esophagus, bladder and kidneys, larynx, reproductive organs, pancreas and more.
"Even a few a day will increase your risk for cancer and double or triple your risk for heart disease," Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist and lung specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said.
You can get away with: Zip, nada—especially on those nights out: Alcohol and tobacco actually enhance each other's damaging effects, so lighting up while imbibing is even more dangerous than smoking alone.
"You need a zero-tolerance policy," Dr. Horovitz said.
Quit, and after 10 years your risk of dying from lung cancer will be half that of a current smoker.
This article originally appeared on Self.com.