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Favorite Foods That May Cause Cancer

favorite foods and cancer

Everyone has favorite foods, but some of them may not be great choices when it comes to your health. Check out the following foods to see if your favorite foods are among those that may cause cancer.

Favorite foods are not always healthy foods

The following foods may cause cancer not only if you eat them, but even if you are around them when they are being cooked. Yes, it is possible for foods to emit cancer-causing substances that you can inhale.

So, with that in mind, here are some foods that may be among your favorites and that may cause cancer.

Bacon. What’s a BLT without the bacon or eggs sans bacon? A healthier food choice, that’s what. You may want to modify your BLT (spicy refried beans is an option) and have your eggs with some garden vegetables instead.

A new study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene noted that cooks who prepare bacon on electric and gas stoves are exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and cancer-causing aldehydes during the cooking process. Researchers observed a higher risk associated with cooking on an electric stove than on gas. Nearly three dozen different PHAs were identified during the study, and each one should be evaluated separately to determine its impact on health risks.

Even if you are not the one cooking the bacon, it is a processed meat, which has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

Doughnuts. Do you grab a doughnut for breakfast at home or at work? Doughnuts are havens of sugar, white flour, hydrogenated oils (and thus trans fats, which are associated with cardiovascular disease), and acrylamides. The World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations have noted that acrylamide in foods are a “major concern.” Why?

Acrylamide is a chemical that is used in industry to make paper, dyes, and plastics, but it also is a cancer-causing chemical found in certain foods that are heated to temperatures greater than 248 degrees Fahrenheit. Most doughnuts are prepared in this manner.

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In fact, a new study published in Prostate reported that regular consumption of certain deep-fried foods, including doughnuts, is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Also, another recent study reported that acrylamide may increase a person’s risk of developing multiple myeloma and follicular lymphoma in men.

French fries. Nearly as American as apple pie, French fries are also a food that is associated with acrylamide. In addition to being associated with a higher cancer risk, French fries are typically made with hydrogenated oil (a trans fat). An alternative is so bake your fries at a low temperature, or how about trying some lightly grilled and marinated vegetables instead?

Fried chicken. Here is yet another food that is associated with the presence of acrylamide and a 30 to 37 percent increased risk of prostate cancer among men who choose to eat this food at least once a week, according to a recent study from researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. If you add a side of French fries to that meal, the risk could be even greater. Consider baked chicken as an alternative or better yet, a healthful plate of whole grain pasta with marinara sauce.

Canned foods. Admittedly, this is not a single food item, but canned foods are convenient, exceedingly popular, and can pose a cancer risk if the cans are lined in BPA, or bisphenol A. Both animal and human studies have linked BPA to breast and prostate cancer as well as neurological disorders, infertility, and type 2 diabetes.

Product testing by the Breast Cancer Fund and by Consumer Reports discovered BPA in a variety of popular canned foods, including soup, gravy, tuna, juices, tomato products, pasta, and vegetables. The good news is that more and more food manufacturers are taking steps to be BPA-free.

However, you can take steps to avoid BPA as well by choosing fresh foods whenever possible and buying items in glass and BPA-free containers.

Burgers and steak. Red meat, especially well done or grilled, poses a risk of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and even pancreatic cancer. That risk comes from substances called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Both of these cancer-causing compounds form when muscle meat is cooked at high temperatures, such as grilling, pan frying, and barbequing. So that fast-food burger or the one you fry at home, as well as the steak on the backyard grill or at the restaurant, can increase your risk of cancer.

If some of your favorite foods can cause cancer, the good news is there are lots of other food choices you can make. The best time to begin making those new selections to help avoid the risk of cancer is now.

Bongers ML et al. Dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of lymphatic malignancies: the Netherlands Cohort Study on diet and cancer. PLoS One 2012; 7(6): e38016
Figg WD. How do you want your steak prepared? Cancer Biology & Therapy 2012 Oct; 13(12): 1141-42
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. World Health Organization. Summary report of the sixty-fourth meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
Jorgensen RB et al. Simulated restaurant cook exposure to emissions of PAHs, mutagenic aldehydes, and particles from frying bacon. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene 2013; 10(3): 122-31
Miller PE et al. Meat-related compounds and colorectal cancer risk by anatomical subsite. Nutrition and Cancer 2013 Feb; 65(2): 202-26
National Cancer Institute
Stott-Miller M et al. Consumption of deep-fried foods and risk of prostate cancer. Prostate 2013 Jan 17