Foods and Drinks That Can Cause Cancer

Some foods and drinks have been linked to cancer. For a food or drink to be considered a carcinogen, a substantial evidence must connect its intake to an increased cancer risk and show how cancer may develop as a result. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies carcinogens by determining how likely they are to cause cancer, with the scale divided into five basic groups: known, probable, possible, unclassifiable and probably not carcinogenic.

Foods and drinks the IARC considers carcinogenic to humans include:

  1. Alcohol

The body produces a chemical compound called acetaldehyde when it digests alcohol. This chemical may damage DNA, which can lead to cancer. According to research, a person develops a higher risks for certain kinds of cancer when they consume more alcohol. Such cancers include; breast, esophageal, liver, colorectal, head and neck cancers.

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Experts recommend abstaining from alcohol to avoid the risk. However, if you must indulge, limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one serving per day if you are a woman, or no more than two servings per day if you are a man.

  1. Processed meats

    Processed meats, or those that have been preserved by salting, curing, smoking, or with chemical preservatives can cause cancer. Examples include sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, and beef jerky. According to research, consuming 50 grams of processed meat which is equivalent of four strips of bacon or one hot dog every day upsurges the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent. If you consume processed meats, go for nitrate- and nitrite-free varieties, which don’t have added preservatives, says Crystal Langlois, RD, LD – Director of Nutrition.

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Foods and drinks that the IARC classifies as probably carcinogenic to humans include:

i. Charred meats or those cooked at high temperatures

Meats prepared at high temperatures form chemicals that may cause changes in your DNA, which may cause cancer. Eating a large amount of well-done, fried or barbecued meats has been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic, colorectal, and prostate cancer. When preparing meat, Langlois recommends baking, braising, or boiling it. It is also advisable to marinate meats before cooking to help reduce the risk of carcinogens forming.

ii. Red meat

Examples of red meant that are considered carcinogenic are pork, beef, veal, mutton, lamb, horse and goat. Eating a large amount of red meat has been connected to pancreatic, prostate and colorectal cancer.

  1. Very hot beverages

    A beverage is considered very hot if it is hotter than 65 degrees Celsius or 149 degrees Fahrenheit. In the United States, drinks like coffee, tea and hot chocolate are typically prepared at lower temperatures, so they’re generally not a concern.

Sugar is not on these lists because it has not yet been directly linked to cancer, but the sweetener does add empty calories, which may lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity has been linked to 13 types of cancer. Reducing the intake of added sugars is one of the easier changes you can make to your diet to improve your waistline, while also helping to reduce your cancer risk, Langlois says.

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A qualified and registered dietitian who major in oncology may help people in making right choices in diet. Langlois added that it’s alright to occasionally indulge in these foods and drinks, but moderation is the key.

“Follow a well-balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fats,” Langlois added.

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