As per the World Cancer Report-2014 published by WHO, in the year 2012, over 8 million people died of cancer and another 14 million become victims of this fatal disease all over the world. The number of new cases of cancer is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.
According to some of the US cancer experts, half the cases of cancer diagnosed in the US are actually preventable by making healthy changes in lifestyle, especially diet habits.
Foods Causing Cancer
We have food and drinks for nourishment and strengthening the immunity system of the body. However, many of the foods we eat, especially delicious junk foods, do more harm to the body than good.
The various types of cancerous conditions in the body could be caused by the regular consumption of certain unhealthy foods.
Of course, the very same foods that lead to the development of heart diseases, diabetes, and chronic inflammation are also the foods that cause cancer.
Overall, about 50% of cancer incidences in people are caused by unhealthy foods and drinks (cancer foods); and the rest are caused by genetic disorders, radiation, viruses, cancer-causing toxic chemicals, pollutants, smoking, and drug abuse.
In this article, we shall exclusively discuss 11 types of commonly used foods and drinks that cause cancer.
Perhaps, you will be surprised to learn that many cancer-causing foods are already being consumed by you regularly or occasionally. Of course, it just means if you continue to consume them regularly, you are at high risk of acquiring some types of cancer in the future.
1. Grilled Red Meat And Processed Meat
Most of us really love to enjoy and relish the great taste of steak prepared on the grill.
Meat is good for health but grilled, and processed meats are not.
The foods that are prepared on grills, especially the meat, will release heterocyclic aromatic amines, a known carcinogen that increases the risk of cancer and heart diseases.
All types of highly processed meats like hot dogs and bacon prepared at a high temperature also produce carcinogens.
When the meat (especially the red meat) is cooked at high temperatures, its molecular and chemical structure changes form to a carcinogen.
The processed and stored meat, usually sold in sealed packets and tin containers, also contains lots of sodium and chemical preservatives that are bad for health.
The smoked meat is even worse as it has higher chances of being contaminated by carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
2. Hydrogenated Oils
The vegetable oils extracted with the help of chemicals are known as hydrogenated oils.
The high amount of Omega 6 fatty acids found in these oils is bad for health as it has a high risk of causing cancer and heart diseases. The omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids must be in a proportionate ratio for them to be good for health.
The trans-fatty acid in hydrogenated oils contains the properties that can give rise to the most common types of cancers that affect skin, colon, pancreases, and rectum.
The excess consumption of omega-6 fats adversely affects health by causing unusual changes in the structure of our cell membranes.
The hydrogenated oils also contain added chemicals used for preservation and giving flavor to the oil. These chemicals also can lead to the development of cancer.
3. Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs)
In recent years, agricultural industries all over the world are extensively using genetically modified food crops for achieving buffer harvest.
The GMO techniques have helped the farmers to increase the mass production of corn, soy, and the number of other commonly used vegetables.
A few of the recent researches’ results from studies conducted on rats indicated the increased possibilities of the occurrence of cancer disease by using GMO foods.
However, any conclusive evidence on GMOs’ risks in causing cancer is still wanting as most of the studies had substantial errors in their findings.
GMO foods are good to be avoided as they are also found to have other adverse health effects besides the risk of causing cancer.
4. Canned Foods
Canned foods and drinks appear very attractive and healthy. But they are not as healthy as you think.
Most cans are lined with a synthetic organic compound called bisphenol-A (BPA). The foods and drinks that stay in contact with this compound absorb the chemical properties that have the risk of causing breast cancer, prostate cancer, and others.
However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) does not fully agree with the evidence on cancer-causing effects of BPA as there are no clear and verified proofs for it.
5. Popcorn Heated In Microwave
Microwave popcorn is one of the favorite snacks for most of us, especially while watching a movie in a theater or watching sporting events.
There is a chemical in the nonstick coating on the inside of the popcorn bag that produces a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid when exposed to the fumes from freshly popped corn.
A study in 1993 by Dr. Frank Gilliland published in “Journal of Occupational Medicine” explained that workers exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid had an increased rate of cancer mortality.
Some of the studies have suggested the possibilities of lung cancer in people who regularly inhale the fumes of freshly popped corns. But there is NO proven evidence to prove this claim.
Most of the popcorn is made of corn and oils sourced from GMO farms as they are cheap and tastier than the organic verities. We have discussed above how these GMO foods are cancer-causing agents.
The chemical ingredient used for adding artificial butter flavoring to popcorn contains diacetyl, which is toxic to humans.
6. Smoked, Salted, And Pickled Foods
The smoked, salted, or pickled foods taste great and excellent appetizers too. But these foods are not healthy for many reasons.
Regular consumption of foods preserved by salting and pickling is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the stomach, nose, and throat. For example, gastric cancer is very common in Japan where lots of preserved traditional foods are commonly used by people.
The manufacturers of pickles usually add harmful preservatives such as nitrates or nitrites which are usually meant for increasing the shelf-life.
Consumption of pickles and salted foods accumulates additives into your body. At a later stage, they become toxic and cause cellular inflammation leading to different types of cancer.
The smoked foods that contain preservatives when heated at high temperatures nitrates turn into dangerous nitrites.
7. Refined Sugar And Artificial Sweeteners
Refined sugar is the most commonly used sweetener in cookies and cakes.
Refined sugar has a high amount of calories. Regular consumption of all those foods containing refined sugar will lead to excess weight gain and obesity.
One of the biggest health risks associated with obesity is the development of various types of cancers that affect the breast, prostate, uterine, pancreatic, and colorectal.
Even artificial sweeteners or ‘sugar-free’ sweeteners are not safe for health.
According to the National Cancer Institute, few cancer studies have shown artificial sweeteners as potential cancer agents on lab rats. It is better to avoid artificial sweeteners as their cancer effects proven on rats is also can happen to human beings.
8. Soda and Carbonated Beverages
Regular intake of soda and sweetened soft drinks like coke are bad for health and can lead to the development of common types of cancers.
These beverages mostly contain a lot of fructose corn syrup, colors, and many other flavors adding chemicals and additives.
The rich sugar and fructose content in them makes people obese and diabetic; also, these drinks have zero nutritional value. These drinks even suppress the nutrition our body is supposed to absorb from normal diets.
If the soda or coke has the label “Diet”, simply tells about aspartame, a dangerous artificial sweetener that is capable of causing cancer.
According to the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, drinking one or more sodas per day could expose you to 4-methylimidazole, a possible carcinogen.
9. Farmed Fish
The quality and goodness fish got from commercial fish farms are very poor when compared with wild fish.
The fish, such as carp, salmon, tilapia, and catfish, are treated with pesticides, antibiotics, and other carcinogenic chemicals that can cause cancer.
Also, these fish from farms do not contain as many omega-3 fatty acids as in wild fish.
10. Refined Grain Flour
Refined grain flour or white flour is bad for health, and it has very little nutritional value in comparison to whole grains.
Most of the commercially sold refined white flours are bleached with chlorine gas to give bright white color to the flour, and this can result in health hazards like cancer and stomach disorders.
White flour also ranks very high on the glycemic index because of its high-calorie content without much nutritional value.
All types of foods prepared with white flour raise the blood sugar level and cause insulin resistance. As a result of this, processed grains can cause diabetes and bad cholesterol arising out of sugar fat. Of course, all these bad health conditions could lead to the development of cancer.
11. Chips And Fried Foods
Most of us love to munch on potato chips and other fried savories.
Many of the commercially sold chips and fried foods contain a lot of trans-fats, chemical flavors, additives, and preservatives.
As per the American Cancer Society’s suggestions and recommendations, when chips are roasted at high temperatures, a product called acrylamide is created, a type of carcinogen that can cause cancer.
The Bottom Line
Most of these foods and drinks are commonly used by us for their great taste and addictive quality.
However, the regular consumption of any of these food items we discussed above, increases the risk of developing major fatal diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disorders.
It is wise to choose healthy foods that do not contain any cancer-causing chemical ingredients. The best alternative to these harmful foods is organic foods which include naturally grown vegetables, fruits, grains, meat, fish, and dairy products.
The foods that come labeled as “light’, “diet” or “fat-free” are also avoidable as they are processed foods that usually have added chemicals.
It is better to avoid all junk foods, and fast foods as almost all of them are high in calories and low in nutritional value.
Now as you have a fair idea about the cancer-causing foods, it is up to you to be serious about avoiding these foods.