Cancer-causing foods: Fact vs fiction

What are the kinds of food that you should avoid? Let's find out.

We come across many articles and postings warning us about cancer-causing food. And while we are keen to know what kinds of food to avoid – because, of course, we want our families to stay healthy – sometimes, it's just information overload. So, once and for all, we thought of providing a definitive list of cancer causing foods to avoid, based on information from the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). 

First, let's examine...

Fact vs Fiction

A lot of articles you come across use shock factor to educate you on what cancer causing foods you should avoid. While these definitely catch your attention, how much is fact and how much is fiction?

Crystal Langlois, Director of Nutrition at the CTCA says, “It’s easy to fall victim to claims on TV, on the Internet and in articles regarding foods or drinks that cause cancer.”

Food and drinks can only be considered carcinogenic when there is strong evidence linking consumption with increased cancer risk as well as how it contributes to cancer development.

So yes, even if there is plenty of cancer causing foods you should avoid, not all of them carry the same risks.

This is why the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies carcinogens with the scale divided into five groups:

  • known
  • probable
  • possible
  • unclassifiable and
  • probably not carcinogenic.

Cancer Causing Foods and Drinks You Should Avoid Consuming

1. Alcohol (Carcinogenic)

cancer causing foods you should avoid

When your body metabolizes alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde. This is a chemical compound that can damage DNA, which may lead to cancer.

So the more you drink, the higher your risk for developing cancer says research. Therefore, alcohol is definitely one of the cancer causing foods you should avoid(drinks, in this case). It is known to trigger certain kinds of cancers, such as head and neck, oesophagal, liverbreast and colorectal cancers. 

Of course, abstaining from alcohol would be the best, but one serving per day if you are a woman, or no more than two servings per day if you are a man is fine, says Langlois. A serving is defined as 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor.

2. Processed Meat (Carcinogenic)

cancer causing foods you should avoid

This includes meat that has been preserved by curing, salting or smoking, or with chemical preservatives. For example, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, prosciutto, beef jerky and salami. 

Research has found that just by eating 50 grams of processed meat (four strips of bacon/one hot dog) every day increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

Always be on the lookout for nitrate in the list of ingredients, and choose nitrite-free versions instead. Processed meat that doesn’t have added preservatives is also healthier options, says Langlois.

3. Charred Meat (Probably Carcinogenic)

cancer causing foods you should avoid

This also includes meat cooked at high temperatures. While charred food means flavour, it also means adding chemicals to your system that may trigger changes in your DNA. 

Increased risk of colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer can come from eating a large amount of well-done, fried or barbecued meats. Braising, baking and boiling are healthier choices. According to Langlois, marinating meat before cooking may also reduce the risk of carcinogens forming.

4. Red Meat (Probably Carcinogenic)

cancer causing foods you should avoid

Other cancer causing foods you should avoid eating too much of include beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse and goat.

Eating a large amount of red meat has been linked to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer.

5. Very Hot Beverages (Probably Carcinogenic)

cancer causing foods you should avoid

As much as you love your drinks and soups piping hot, try to avoid anything hotter than 65 degrees Celsius.

Studies have shown a link between extremely hot drinks and the occurrence of esophageal cancer, but only when it was served at the traditional, very hot temperature.

While it is very Asian to be served a hot dinner with hot tea, in the United States, drinks like coffee, tea and hot chocolate are typically prepared at lower temperatures, so they’re generally not a cause for concern.

Sugar Does Not Make the List

This is mainly because it has not been directly linked to cancer.

However, sugar can lead to obesity, and obesity has been linked to 13 types of cancer.

Cutting sugar out of your diet is a great way to lose weight while also helping to reduce cancer risks.

So in summary, even if these are cancer causing foods you should avoid eating too much off, it is okay to indulge from time to time.

The key is to eat in moderation. Following a well-balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fats is important. But be sure to make time to exercise too.

 

Source: Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Read also: The common sign of ovarian cancer most women ignore