Skip Navigation

Your Environment. Your Health.

Cancer

Table of Contents

Introduction

a woman reflecting

Cancer arises when cells are unable to repair DNA damage and experience abnormal cell growth and division. The process known as metastasis occurs when cancer cells travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream and replace normal tissue. According to the American Cancer Society, this chronic disease is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. with half of all men and one-third of all women developing some form of cancer during their lifetimes.

Although cancer is responsible for 23% of all deaths in the U.S., millions of Americans have recovered from the disease. People may reduce their chances of getting cancer by employing prevention methods such as having regular screenings and living a healthy lifestyle.

The NIEHS is committed to understanding the connection between genetics and environmental exposures with regard to cancer. In addition to several Division of Intramural Research (DIR) groups studying the molecular mechanisms behind the disease, the NIEHS funds cancer research at other institutions.

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter)

Printable Fact Sheets

Press Releases

Additional Resources

  • 14th Report on Carcinogens - The Report on Carcinogens (RoC) is a congressionally mandated, science-based, public health report that identifies agents, substances, mixtures, or exposures (collectively called "substances") in our environment that pose a hazard to people residing in the United States.
  • Arsenic: In Small Doses - a video about the risks of arsenic exposure in private well water.
  • Cancer - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: NIH Research Timelines Fact Sheet.
  • Cancer.gov - The National Cancer Institute's portal to information on the types of cancer, treatment options, methods for coping with cancer, support groups, screening and testing and prevention measures.
  • Healthy People - Captafol was produced and used as a fungicide in the United States until 1987.
  • Climate Change and Human Health - The federal government has called for efforts to support adaptation and mitigation of climate change to create healthier, more sustainable communities. The goals of the NIEHS Climate Change and Human Health Program align with these efforts.
  • Clinical Trials Education Series - National Cancer Institute. Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Understanding what they are can help you decide if a clinical trial might be an option for you. Or maybe you have a friend or family member with cancer and are wondering if a clinical trial is right for them. NCI has provided basic information about clinical trials to help you understand what’s involved in taking part
  • Cobalt-Tungsten Carbide: Powders & Hard Metals Profile: Report on Carcinogens Cobalt–tungsten carbide hard metals have properties of extreme hardness, abrasion resistance, and toughness and are used primarily in cutting tools and wear-resistant machine parts.
  • DNA Replication Fidelity: DNA Damage & Repair – The DNA Replication Fidelity Group performs research aimed at understanding the DNA transactions that determine DNA replication fidelity.
  • Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory - The Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory investigates fundamental mechanisms by which epigenetics — non-genetic modulation and alterations — influences chromatin architecture, transcription and gene expression in normal, cancer and embryonic stem cells and provides insights into biological processes that modulate the effects of environmental exposures.
  • Gene Toxicity and Cancer - Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: NIH Research Timelines Fact Sheet.
  • Healthy People - Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.
  • Household Products Database: Health Effects - What's under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room? Learn more about what's in these products, about potential health effects, and about safety and handling.
  • A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change (Full Report)(4MB) - A Report Outlining the Research Needs on the Human Health Effects of Climate Change.
  • o-Nitrotolulene Profile: Report on Carcinogens - The general population may be exposed to o‑nitrotoluene as a result of its occurrence in the environment from (1) inadvertent spills of o‑nitrotoluene or chemical mixtures containing o‑nitrotoluene, (2) emissions directly into the environment, or (3) breakdown products of dinitrotoluenes (DNT) and trinitrotoluenes (TNT).
  • Of Mice and Women: Modeling Breast Cancer and the Environment - Scientific Glossary - Scientific Glossary (PDF) Developed by the Bay Area Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Center Community Outreach Translation Core.
  • OncoLink - Information on the types of cancer, treatment options, coping with cancer, clinical trials, and bibliography of books, music and videotapes on cancer from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Riddelliine Profile: Report on Carcinogens - Riddelliine-containing plants are not used for food in the United States, and riddelliine and riddelliine N-oxide have no known commercial uses. However, the riddelliine-containing plant Senecio longilobus has been used in medicinal herb preparations in the United States, and S. jacobaea and S. vulgaris, both of which have been shown to contain riddelliine, are used in medicinal preparations in other parts of the world.
  • Talking to Your Doctor - Resources from NIH - Resources from NIH Clear and honest communication between you and your physician can help you both make smart choices about your health. It’s important to be honest and upfront about your symptoms even if you feel embarrassed or shy. Have an open dialogue with your doctor – ask questions to make sure you understand your diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
  • Tips from Former Smokers Campaign (Tips) - A national campaign to help people quit smoking from the CDC.

Related Health Topics