Sixteen Foods That Can Increase Your Cancer Risk
Eating healthy is a full time job. It's important to take the time to be knowledgeable about your diet, because, in the end, a healthy diet can add years and years to your life. There are foods that many of us eat every day that are actually very bad for us, and can even increase our risk of many forms of cancer. The goal of this article is to help you choose your foods more conscientiously, so that you can avoid cancer-causing foods.
Microwave Popcorn and Cancer Risk
Popcorn is a great low-calorie snack, and an excellent source of fiber, but you should only eat popcorn that you cook yourself, because microwave popcorn can be really bad for you. Microwave popcorn is the epitome of modern convenience, but there are a lot of reasons to avoid this staple snack in the American diet.
For one, the inner lining of popcorn bags is covered with perfluorooctanoic acid, also referred to as PFOA. The reason why manufacturers use PFOA is so that the popcorn kernels and other ingredients don't get stuck to the bag. PFOA is also an ingredient in Teflon. Most people know that scratching Teflon can contaminate the food you cook on the pan, but PFOA fairly freely dissociates from he popcorn bag.
The Environmental Protection Agency considers PFOA a toxic chemical, but the chemical is still used in popcorn bags. There is strong clinical evidence that PFOA contributes to both cancer and infertility in laboratory experiments.
Also, there are reasons to avoid microwave popcorn even on top of the issues with the bag. For one, most microwave popcorn is covered with preservatives. One of the most common is propyl gallate, which has been linked to issues ranging from rashing of the skin to gastrointestinal complications. Microwave popcorn manufacturers heavily make use of genetically modified crops to make their popcorn as well.
Finally, popcorn is frequently doused with diacetyl, a powdery substance which has been associated with lung conditions among employees at their factories, frequently referred to as Popcorn Lung. All of this can be avoided simply by purchasing popcorn kernels from a responsible source, and cooking them on your own.
Non-Organic Fruits and Cancer Risk
It's incredibly important to source your fruits from responsible growers. Many industrial fruit farms douse their fruit crops in chemicals, such as organophosphates, thiodicarb, and atrazine. Many also use fertilizers which are tremendously high in nitrogen.
The use of atrazine as a fertilizer is actually illegal in many areas of the world, including most of Europe. There is powerful evidence that atrazine exposure can lead to issues regarding reproduction and fertility, made particularly clear in animal experiments. In America, atrazine is still frequently used as a weed killer.
There is even evidence that atrazine impacts human fertility. In fact, in 2009, researchers found that women that lived in areas where water was inadvertently laced with Atrazine, their children weighed less at birth. Also, frequently, non-organic fruit farms use bio-solids to fertilize their crops. Bio-solids is a polite way of saying that these crops are fertilized with human waste from American sewage plants. This sewage contains not only human waste, but everything that is filtered from the water supply!
Vegetables and fruits are frequently doused with these chemicals, which is why the conspicuous health consumer should choose organic growers that avoid these chemicals. Growers use these chemicals to maximize the growth of their product. Apples have the highest rate of pesticide absorption. Ninety-eight percent of apples were shown to have traceable levels of pesticide! Other fruits that have high rates of pesticide absorption and exposure are grapes, strawberries, and oranges.
For this reason, it is important to wash all fruits before you eat them. But it is also important to understand that washing won't get rid of all of the contamination, which is why it's important to source your fruits as well as possible.
Canned Tomatoes and Cancer Risk
Bisphenol-A is a common chemical which is frequently used in order to line the inside of canned food, in order to prevent the organic chemicals in the food from interacting with the metal of the can, preserving taste. It is also known as BPA, and there are some concerns regarding the effect that Bisphenol-A can have on health.
A recent study, released in 2013 by NAS, demonstrated that BPA can impact the manner in which genes function inside lab rat brains. The Food and Drug Administration is also concerned about potential health issues that may be contributed to BPA, and cautiously urge food manufacturers to minimize their use of BPA or find another, more safe and suitable chemical to do the job.
There are many canned foods which don't necessarily present a big risk of BPA exposure, but acidic fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, are some of the prime culprits, because the acids can interact with the lining, causing the BPA to enter the food itself. In canned tomatoes, BPA levels can reach a concentration where many groups recommend that children don't eat them at all.
As of today, there are no rules in place to make manufacturers label their cans if they use BPA, so unless it explicitly says that it does not contain BPA, you should assume that it does. If you want to mitigate you or your children's exposure to BPA, choose foods that have been sealed in glass jars, frozen in bags, or which are just plain fresh!
Processed Meats and Cancer Risk
Processed Meats have become a staple in many people's eating habits. Originally, processed meats were created to help food taste better and remain edible for a longer period of time. When good, fresh meat was harder to come by, this was important, but today, when good, healthy meat is readily available, the downsides to processed meat become much clearer. Processed meat is a wide and varied category that includes lunch meat, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages, among many other meat products.
The issue with these foods is that, unlike other meats such as steak, pork loin, and fish, processed meats are heavily treated with chemicals and salts which affect their flavor, texture, and quality. Unfortunately, these ingredients also present a carcinogenic risk, while also being bad for the cardiovascular system in general.
In a recent study released in the journal BioMed Central Medicine, it was found that in over the course of a 13 year longitudinal study, one in every seventeen patients died. The consumption of processed meats played at least a strong correlative factor in mortality rates, because participants that ate a volume of processed meat product of more than 160 grams per day were 44% more likely to experience premature mortality than those that ate 20 grams per day or fewer. This broad study ranged across ten nations in Europe.
One of the prime factors which lead to this enhanced risk is sodium nitrate, a preservative used to maintain freshness and quality, but that also leads to increased cancer risk. Smoked meats can also cause issues, because the cooking process involved with smoking causes tar to be absorbed into the meat. If you enjoy foods like these and don't want to give them up, remember: moderation is your friend and will help you live a longer and happier life!
Farm-Raised Salmon and Cancer Risk
In general, fish are one of the best means to add lean protein to your diet. Of course, there are some forms of fish you should avoid, even if they are fresh. This includes Farm-Raised Salmon, which is not nearly as healthy as salmon which is caught wild. It's important to be aware of where your salmon is sourced, because more than half of the salmon eaten in the United States come from these farms.
Right now you are likely asking yourself, what's the problem with Farm-Raised Salmon? Well, the main issue with them is the way they are fed and stored. Salmon that has been raised in a farm atmosphere doesn't live the same life or even have the same dietary composition as those caught wild.
For example, they are often fed the same food as other farm animals, including chicken litter. Healthy wild salmon is naturally pink, but, because of their poor diet in captivity, they lose that color, and are actually fed chemicals in order to produce this color artificially to trick you into thinking that you are getting a healthy product. The deep red color is actually an indication of the composition of the animal, and farm-raised salmon don't produce as much natural Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which means that you don't get the same health benefits from Farm-Raised Salmon as you would from wild salmon.
Also, in order to keep the fish healthy and heavy, they are treated with pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in order to increase the viability of the yield, and many of these chemicals are known endocrine disruptors or have other negative effects on human and ecological health. They also have increased levels of dioxins, mercury, and PCBs, all of which can have a negative impact on health.
Potato Chips and Cancer Risk
One of the issues with the American diet today is that so many of the things that are bad for us, or were originally only intended to be eaten in moderation are now staple foods in the American diet. This is especially true of potato chips, which are a go-to snack for people on the go, and many people that are simply looking for some quick and easy tasty calories to go with their sandwich (which likely contains processed meat!).
Unfortunately, potato chips are unhealthy in a number of ways. For example, potato chips are a calorie dense food and they are also full of fat. Potato chips, like french fries, are a terrible addition to any diet as more than an occasional treat. A recent article released in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that consuming just a single ounce of potato chips on a daily basis led to an average increase in weight of two pounds.
Also, many types of potato chips are loaded with trans-fats which are universally bad for human health and should be avoided as completely as possible. The combination of high trans-fats and high sodium combine in a one-two punch that is highly dangerous for individuals that suffer from hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels.
There are also carcinogens in potato chips, which are produced whenever potatoes are fried at very high temps. These exceptional temperatures are necessary to produce the crispiness in the ideal potato chip, but they also lead to the production of acrylamide, which is a cancer-causing agent most notable as a product of cigarette smoke.
All of this doesn't even take into account the glut of artificial colors, preservatives, and flavors which all have their unique effects on health and cancer risk. If you absolutely love the occasional bag of chips, turn to baked tortilla chips or potato chips in order to limit the calories and fat per serving. There are also a lot of alternatives that are much better for you, including whole wheat pretzels and popcorn popped on the stove, or, even better, air-popped.
If you are addicted to the crispness of potato chips more than the potatoes themselves, baked banana and apple chips can sate that desire while also filling in your nutritional needs without being a caloric burden.
Hydrogenated Oils and Cancer Risk
Hydrogenated oils are vegetable fats which are chemically extracted from the original plant. Animal fat can be separated naturally, but vegetable oils must be treated in order to be separated. The bottle of vegetable oil that you have on your counter has likely been treated with coloring agents and deodorized in order to make it appear more appealing as an ingredient.
There's nothing wrong with vegetable oil in moderation, but it's important to be aware that Hydrogenated oil is very high in Omega-6 fatty acids. If you have too much vegetable oil in your diet, it can lead to health issues such as an increased risk of both cancer and heart disease. The form of cancer that appears to be most affected by Omega-6 is skin cancer.
In order to mitigate the risk of cancer associated with Omega-6 fatty acids, it is important to both consume products which contain vegetable oil in moderation, and also make sure that you get enough Omega-3 to balance out for your health. There are a lot of great ways to supplement your diet with Omega-3, including fatty fish like wild mackerel and salmon as well as meat from animals fed by grass. There are also lots of supplements that effectively provide Omega-3.
The amount of oil used for home cooking is generally in an acceptable range, but processed foods tend to contain way too much vegetable oil because of its function as a preservative. The reason why Hydrogenated oils increase cancer risk is because they have a negative influence on the flexibility and structure of the cell membranes.
Smoked or Highly Salted Foods and Cancer Risk
One of the reasons why processed foods are such an issue is because they contain nitrite or nitrate salts. These salts are also used in a variety of other food products as well. They are powerful preservatives, and they also artificially color the meat to increase its visual appeal. The reason why these salts are bad is because, after they are digested, they are converted into N-nitroso composites, which are associated with increased cancer risk. Foods often treated with Nitrates and Nitrites are salami, bologna, sausage, and bacon, and, as we mentioned before, they are also unhealthy because of their salt and fat content.
The excess consumption of food cooked by smoking is also bad, because any food that is smoked absorbs tar solid carcinogens which will then be absorbed into the body. Pickled foods are highly unhealthy because the pickling process is literally preserving food by drowning it in salt.
There is evidence that all the foods mentioned above increase the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. This has been shown quite vividly by studying cultures like Japan, where the normal diet is high in smoked and salted foods.
Processed Bleached Flour and Cancer Risk
It is quite clear that, as evidence continues to grow, white flour is simply not good for you. It's so prevalent in the American diet, however, that it can be difficult to actually register how bad white flour is for the body. In reality, white flour is no better than sugar. White flour is the epitome of the empty calorie. The process that creates white flour eliminates all of the ingredients which can make grains beneficial.
Flour used to be naturally white, but today, in order to reduce production time and cut costs, white flour is bleached in order to make the product more visually palatable. The most common chemical that is used to hasten the whitening process is chlorine gas.
Chlorine gas is highly toxic and dangerous when inhaled, and the same chemical processes which make the chemical so dangerous are also the mechanisms by which causes white flour to be completely bereft of nutrition.
Because white flour is so processed, the body can directly absorb the carbohydrates and distribute them with no effort. In most cases, unless you are highly active or maintain an otherwise optimal diet, white flour will be converted nearly directly into fat. Because white flour activates so readily, it can positively be hell on your insulin and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of diabetes.
Over-consumption of processed flour can contribute to cancer for two reasons. For one, obesity leads to hormone imbalance, which suppresses Testosterone Levels and increases Estrogen Levels in men. In both sexes, HGH Levels are suppressed. Also, for patients with cancer, these empty calories can actually have a negative impact on health because of how readily they can be used by cancerous tumors.
GMOs Increase Cancer Risk
There are many loud and vocal opponents to genetically modified foods, frequently referred to as GMOs. GMOs are any foods, plant or animal, which have been modified at the genetic level via scientific means or exposure to chemicals.
Many GMOs are perfectly healthy, but the issue is that there is no review process or sufficient monitoring to make sure which GMOs are safe and which can potentially be dangerous. In one particularly telling study, performed by a scientist named Dr. Arpad Pusztai, potatoes were treated with a GMO modifier known as A-Lectin, which has an incredibly detrimental effect on mammalian health. After only ten days of experimentation, the rats in the study experienced diminished livers and brains, as well as pre-cancerous growths and inhibited immune systems.
Many point to this study to say all GMOs are bad, but the point of the study was explicitly to show that genetically modified foods, if not properly inspected, can potentially have a highly negative impact on human health. There are no procedures in place to sufficiently monitor genetically modified foods, and for this reason, the conscientious consumer would be wise to avoid GMO foods for their natural alternatives.
Processed Sugars Increase Cancer Risk
Like processed grains, processed sugars also wreak havoc upon insulin levels, and also provide a direct, unmediated path to increased weight gain and the exacerbation of cancerous and precancerous lesions and tumors.
For closing in on a century, scientific researchers have been aware of the potential cancer-exacerbating issues related to the excess consumption of sugar. In 1931, a man named Otto Warburg was the first researcher to prove that cancerous tumors draw in sugar from the blood stream to develop and grow.
The sugars which seem to have the most powerful effect upon tumor growth are those that also increase the risk of diabetes, such as simple sugars and carbs, as well as High-Fructose Corn Syrup. When you eat whole wheat bread or fruits, your body also processes fiber and other nutrients, which causes the body to absorb the sugar more slowly.
High-Fructose Corn Syrup is essentially identical to the sugar in your blood stream, meaning that it is absorbed directly from the stomach into the blood stream, where it goes directly to fat tissue, the muscles (under heavy activity), or to tumors in the case of cancer.
Since the 1980s, corn syrup has become increasingly prevalent in the foods that we eat, including cereals, sauces, juices, sodas, cookies, pies, and cakes. One of the easiest ways to avoid HFCS and other processed sugars is to cook food yourself so that you are aware of the ingredients, or eat selectively or at specialty restaurants.
Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer Risk
Artificial Sweeteners are commonly used by people that are trying to limit their sugar intake, whether as a result of diabetes or a general interest in losing weight. The issue with artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame is that they aren't that effective at leading to reduced caloric consumption. In fact, many studies show that, on average, people that turn to diet drinks actually have a tendency to gain weight, because these artificial sweeteners tend to lead to an increased sensation of hunger, especially for sweets. They've also been shown to be of limited effectiveness for diabetics.
These products can be ineffective for diabetics because it can inhibit the body's ability to regulate blood sugar, and can also exacerbate existing issues related to diabetes such as gastro paresis and cataracts. In some limited cases, aspartame can also lead to convulsions.
There is also growing data which suggests that aspartame, and some other artificial sweeteners, convert into Diketopiperazine, also known as DKP. When Aspartame is digested by the stomach, some of it is converted into this chemical, which is a known carcinogen, and is most strongly correlated with increased brain tumor risk.
If you are interested in a sugar substitute that is actually healthy for you, try Stevia. Stevia is a natural plant extract derived from a tropical plant that has the ability to imitate the flavor and satiation associated with sugar, without contributing to your caloric intake. Based on the way that the extract is biologically configured, it activates the taste buds associated with sweetness, but the sugar substitute does not break down until after it will no longer be absorbed into the blood stream and is safely excreted. The only issue is that Stevia cannot survive high temperatures associated with a stove top, but can survive the baking process up to a certain temperature.
"Diet" Foods and Cancer Risk
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive, but packaged diet products, whether they be drinks or meals, tend to be bad for you. For one, most common diet drinks contain aspartame, which is bad for you for the reasons described in the previous section.
Diet meals also tend to be bad for you because they dazzle you with phrases like Low Fat or No Sugar, but include other products that are just as bad for you. Many Low Fat foods are loaded with sugar, which is actually far worse for your diet than fat! Also, almost all Diet Foods are loaded with salt, which is bad for people that are overweight or obese and are already suffering from issues related to high blood pressure and hypertension.
Also, these diet foods often look nothing like their more naturally composed alternatives, meaning that they need artificial flavors and sweeteners in order to imitate the flavor profile that they are trying to copy. As we've mentioned previously, many of these artificial sweeteners and products are carcinogenic, and could be much worse for you in the long run than sticking to a natural and responsible diet.
There is also evidence that many of the additives in diet food actually have addictive qualities in some individuals. They are included to help you develop a craving for the foods and lean on them as a crutch, whether or not you lose weight! Remember, the best way to lose weight is to consume a diet of moderation high in nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables and fruits.
Excess Consumption of Alcohol and Cancer Risk
Alcohol is an interesting beast. When used in moderation, it can have beneficial effects on health and wellness, but, when consumed in excess, it can greatly increase mortality risk in a number of ways, including an increased risk of liver cancer and other medical conditions.
In one major study, researchers followed American women for nearly fourteen years in order to generally assess their health and how their habits affected their health. Among the 20,000 participants, it was discovered that women that drank alcohol once per day or more were thirty percent more likely to experience breast cancer than non-drinking women.
Behind the use of tobacco products, alcohol consumption is the 2nd highest identifier of cancer risk. Low or modest consumption of alcohol is related to a diminished heart disease risk, but alcohol abuse is associated with increased risk of general mortality, stroke, and heart failure. World Health Organization Researchers examined twenty-seven unique studies which explored the potential link between alcohol and cancer. The result of their research was that they determined that alcohol abuse is the leading cause of various cancers, including female breast cancer and cancers of the rectum, mouth, colon, liver, and esophagus.
Remember, the key here is moderation. There's no reason that you can't enjoy a beverage with dinner, but be sure to limit yourself in order to optimize your health!
Red Meat and Cancer Risk
Most people naturally crave red meat, at least sometimes. Red meat is a quality source of many vitamins, including Vitamin A. The problem is that we have a tendency to eat too much. Red meat is another food that is best eaten occasionally that many people eat on a daily basis.
The best red meat is that which comes from an animal eating its natural diet. Grass-fed beef is far better for health than grain-fed beef, and the former actually has cancer-preventing qualities, primarily in the form of linoleic acid.
On the other hand, studies have shown that daily consumption of red meat over an extended period of time can significantly increase cancer risk. For example, in one study, ten years of constant red meat consumption increased cancer mortality risk by twenty percent for women and twenty-two percent for men. In particular, red meat seems to increase the probability of experiencing colon, prostate, and breast cancer.
Red meat has the most significant and life-threatening impact with regard to colon cancer. In one exceptionally large study of men and women between fifty and seventy-four, there was clear evidence that red meat consumption greatly increased the risk of colon cancer, while regular consumption of lean meat had ameliorative properties which appeared to protect against cancer.
There's nothing wrong with a delicious steak occasionally, but make sure that you don't make it an every day habit. Once per week is a nice rule of thumb if you're a fan of steak and want to maximize benefits with minimal risk to your health.
Soda and Cancer Risk
After reading the previous entries, you probably wouldn't at all be surprised to find out that the excessive consumption of pretty much any soda is bad for you. One recent research study showed that men and women that average more than a single serving of soda daily are at increased risk of stroke compared to those that forgo soda altogether.
One reason for this is that sodas are packed with empty calories. Look at the back of that can of coke next time. The drink offers absolutely nothing that your body needs, aside from calories which you can easily get elsewhere, and are very likely consuming too much of as it is. Most American sodas are flavored with HFCS, which is incredibly bad for you and can lead to diabetes and exacerbate cancer.
Soda is also among the most common causes of Acid-Reflux disease, a condition in which stomach acid leeches into the esophagus, leading to discomfort and pain. Sodas are also bad because their ingredients cause ulcers to become worse and more problematic. Artificial flavors and sweeteners can be bad for you too, and one of the most common flavorings is 4-methylimidazole, which has been shown in some studies to be carcinogenic.
Some important things to note, if you do drink sodas occasionally: For one, root beer with natural flavors can be a nice treat every once in awhile that, while still containing empty calories, is devoid of other ingredients that can be bad for your health. Also, clear sodas like Sprite don't contain artificial coloring agents, and aren't as acidic as dark sodas, although Mountain Dew is just as bad or worse than other sodas, and contains more caffeine.