Could Certain Foods be Increasing Your Risk of Cancer?

Can Certain Foods Cause Cancer?
Photo Credit: AlexRaths  / iStockPhoto.com
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Can Certain Foods Cause Cancer?

If you suffer from cancer, a big question you probably ask is, “Why me?” All types of cancers have their own set of risk factors, so depending on the type of cancer you have, there may (or may not) be a reason for why you have cancer.

But, could your diet contribute to your cancer development?

Diet and Cancer: Is There a Link?

It is thought that 30 to 40 percent of cancers have a link to diet. Certain habits, such as eating a high fat diet (which often equates to a high calorie diet), increase risk of cancer in general, because being overweight is a risk factor for many types of cancers.

However, some foods are also thought to boost immunity and may actually decrease risk of cancer.

Diet and cancer is a highly researched topic. For example, it is noted that breast cancer is less common in countries that consume a plant-based diet that is low in fat.

However, multiple research studies in the U.S. have not correlated breast cancer risk to be increased in conjunction with dietary fat intake. Another study did note that girls who consume a high-fat diet during puberty have an increased risk of developing breast cancer during adulthood.

What does this all boil down to?

We still do not know for sure if diet is related to cancer. However, avoiding certain foods may possibly decrease your risk as these foods are thought to increase cancer risk.

Bisphenol (BPA)

Bisphenol (BPA) is the thin plastic layer found in many aluminum containers. It may also be found in water bottles and various plastic containers.

BPA is placed in cans to keep the fruits and vegetables and other canned goods fresh for long periods of time.

BPA is thought to be toxic to humans. In research studies, BPA kills rats in small amounts. However, the FDA has said that BPA is safe in small amounts.

It is also thought to cause hormone imbalances that may be responsible for not just cancer, but hypertension, heart disease and obesity.

Although the FDA states that it is safe, it does not hurt to avoid food items that may contain BPA. One way to do so is to buy organic canned goods and to purchase plasticware that states it is BPA-free.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin and cyclamate. Research has shown that saccharin or cyclamate has caused bladder cancer in rats; however, they were administered 1,000 times the amount of normal consumption. Studies have also shown that humans are not affected in the same way.

Burnt and Barbecued Foods

Barbecuing foods can give off a carcinogenic byproduct — polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The typical amount caused by grilling food is small and may not be of any significance, but limiting intake of grilled foods may be in your best interest.

Using low-temperature methods of cooking such as steaming, baking, roasting, boiling and poaching will not cause PAHs to be produced.

Processed Meats

Processed meats include hot dogs, ham, beef jerky, sausages and canned meats.

The World Health Organization has classified processed meats as Group 1 — carcinogenic to humans. This means that there is evidence that points to causation of cancer in humans.

Extensive research has been performed, using epidemiological studies — sufficient evidence has proven that processed meats cause colorectal cancer. So, it is in everyone’s best interest to avoid processed meats.

The Bottom Line

There are some foods that have been proven to be carcinogenic, and others with convincing evidence.

Avoiding these foods may decrease your risk, but it does not guarantee that you will never have cancer. Nor does it mean that consuming these foods was definitely the cause of your cancer if you currently have it.

Resources

Better Health Channel (Cancer and Food)

BreastCancer.org (Eating Unhealthy Food)

Seattle Organic Restaurants (5 reasons you should avoid canned food; All because they are harmful)

World Health Organization (Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat)