Avoid Toxins to Reduce Cancer Risk

By Dr. Lucas Tims, ND, FABNO

Through the work of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and others, there are comprehensive lists of known carcinogens. [1] The IARC organizes its list into four categories, though I recommend paying the most attention to Group 1, known carcinogens, and Group 2, probable carcinogens.

There are more than 200 toxins combined in Groups 1 and 2, which can be intimidating.

Those include well-known and widely discussed toxins that we frequently see in patients at the Riordan Clinic, including mold, heavy metals, plastic chemicals, and pesticides. Even some of the pharmaceuticals used to treat cancer can be carcinogenic. [1] However, it is important to know that while everyone is exposed to toxins, to an extent, not everyone will develop cancer as a result.

Every cell in our body can become cancerous if presented with the right – or perhaps wrong – conditions. Toxicity is one of 10 terrains that can contribute to cells becoming cancerous. But what I have found in my own experience with patients, talking with other doctors, and available research, most of my patients will test positive for exposure to one or more toxins and more than one of the other 10 terrains. [2]

How Do Our Bodies Process Toxins?

Our bodies are designed to deal with a certain amount of toxin exposure. We have built-in, natural filtration systems, such as our liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and sweat, which can move some of the toxins out and prevent them from building up to the point that they cause a problem. [3] However, if these systems become overloaded or stagnant, toxins can build up and create disease. While there are different methods to test for toxins in the body, urine tests are most common and, in my experience, are the most reliable as you can look at not only active exposures but past as well.

Every individual is different. That is also true with cancer.  In my practice, I have not seen trends for a level of exposure or causation that can definitively be linked to a type of cancer. We do see a lot of mold and pesticide toxicity at the Riordan Clinic, which would be expected considering the specific environment. During my practice in Arizona, we didn’t see much mold.

However, after moving to a more humid climate in the Midwest, it is one of the most common toxins I see in patients. That is true of pesticides, one of the most well-known being glyphosate, because of the agricultural emphasis in this region. What I can tell, anecdotally, is that it is hard to predict which toxins I will find in which patients, even with the same cancer types.

Addressing Toxins

If lab results show toxins, I initially want to understand if the exposure is current and active or if it is from an ongoing source that has built up over time and is more consolidated and persisting in the body. Then we can move toward addressing it for that individual.

To borrow a phrase from Riordan Clinic Board Member Dr. Thomas Levy, MD, JD, “It’s hard to dry off when you are still standing in the shower.” Addressing toxins and removing as much exposure as possible is the next step. Sometimes initial testing will show there is a toxicity in the body, but we might not know the complete picture. We may get a hint there is a problem, but it isn’t until we start detoxing an individual and retest after a few months that we know the full extent of the problem.

It is sometimes hard to predict how long it will take an individual to detox. We all have different makeup regarding how our bodies process toxins, and genetics can have an impact. It is not unusual for it to take 6 to 12 months to get a significant toxic load completely out of the body.

Tips for Reducing Exposure

If an individual has an active exposure, we want to get them out of that environment, if possible. Then we look at initiating protocols that can help their body detox. If leaving an environment, such as moving away from an agricultural area, isn’t possible, I recommend other actions to minimize exposure.

For example, avoid grains and GMO-type crops. Buying organic is really important, and growing your own is even better. Many toxins, including heavy metals and pesticides, have found their way into the water, so filtering is important. [4] If mold is present in the home, remediate it as soon as possible.

For other types of chemicals, use air filters and keep the ductwork clean in your home. Be mindful of chemicals in items such as beauty products, household cleaners, non-stick cookware, and plastic containers. These things have made their way into our lives because of modern convenience and corporate marketing, but we don’t need them to live. There are many safer options when it comes to food storage and personal and beauty care products. I often send people to the Environmental Working Group for guidance. [5]

Closing Thoughts

Although I would always like to see more clinical data, I can say anecdotally after working with thousands of patients in detox protocols, I have absolutely seen that when toxicities are addressed, patients do better with their cancer. We see better outcomes, better responses to treatments, and fewer recurrences.


  1. Known and probable human carcinogens. American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.cancer.org/healthy/cancer-causes/general-info/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens.html
  2. What is the terrain based approach to cancer? Real Health Podcast. (2022, May 3). Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.realhealthpodcast.org/2022/04/what-is-terrain-based-testing
  3. MD Anderson Cancer Center, & Alexander, H. (2020, October 26). 4 detox myths: Get the facts. MD Anderson Cancer Center. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/the-facts-behind-4-detox-myths-should-you-detox-your-body.h00-159385890.html
  4. Group, E. W. (n.d.). EWG’s tap water database: Contaminants in your water. EWG Tap Water Database. Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/contaminant.php?contamcode=2034
  5. Know your choices. EWG. (2021, November 3). Retrieved January 18, 2023, from https://www.ewg.org/