According to the American Cancer Society, there will be more than 1,762,450 new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Although no food, special diet, or supplement can prevent cancer, some foods may lower the risk, such as leafy green vegetables, berries, and whole grains. However, there are also foods that may increase a person's risk for specific types of cancer. By eliminating or reducing notably carcinogenic foods from our diets, we may be able to reduce our chances of developing cancer.

Processed meats

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans are eating more meat than ever, around 222 pounds each year, per person. Processed meats including sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, packaged lunch meat, beef jerky, ham, and bacon may increase the odds of developing colorectal cancer. The World Health Organization warns that daily consumption of even one hot dog or a few strips of bacon increases cancer risk by 18%. Processed meats are any that have been cured, smoked, salted, canned, or dried. They contain nitrates, preservatives added to enhance flavor and deter bacteria growth. Nitrates also occur naturally in fresh foods. Researchers can anecdotally link them to cancer, though the research is inconclusive and ongoing.

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Hot beverages

A study in the International Journal of Cancer showed a connection between esophageal cancer and hot beverages. Consuming a beverage such as hot tea at temperatures higher than 140 degrees causes thermal damage to the cells that line the esophagus and may be responsible for this increased risk. Those who drink hot beverages before letting them cool, and also consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes, increase their chances of developing esophageal cancer five-fold.

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Overcooked and burnt food

Some overcooked or burnt foods, mainly meat forms chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals are the result of amino acids, sugars, and creatinine reacting at high temperatures. The juices that drip down onto an open flame or heat source create smoke that releases PAHs, which then adhere to the surface of the meat. Meats cooked at temperatures of 300 degrees Fahrenheit or above or those meats cooked for very long periods, form HCAs. Acrylamides form when starchy foods cook until they are dark brown. Some studies link the consumption of these compounds to ovarian and endometrial cancers, though definitive evidence is still lacking.

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Alcoholic beverages

Even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of developing cancer. Alcohol consumption is linked to 5.6% of all new cancers and 4% of cancer deaths. Heavy or regular alcohol use also increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum. Genetics play a role in a person's chances of developing cancer as a result of drinking alcohol. Genes encode the enzymes involved in metabolizing alcohol. Individuals of East Asian heritage may carry a version of the gene that speeds the conversion of alcohol to a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde. Those who carry this gene have a higher chance of developing esophageal cancer.

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Milk and other dairy products like cheese are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, but studies show that the calcium they contain may lower the risk of colorectal and other types of cancer. However, a high intake of dairy products may increase the possibility of prostate cancer, according to the Physicians Health Study, a 28-year study of more than 21,000 people. Subjects who consumed more than 2.5 servings of dairy products each day were more likely to develop prostate cancer.

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Refined carbohydrates and sugars

People who eat a diet high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, pasta, soft drinks, and fruit juices are more likely to develop colon cancer than those who consume mostly whole grains and complex carbohydrates such as fresh vegetables and fruits. Studies support the probability that high blood glucose and insulin levels in the body increase inflammation and along with it, the risk of cancer. The glycemic index measures how fast carbohydrates turn into sugar in the blood. A 2016 study linked excess consumption of high glycemic index foods to an 88% greater risk for prostate cancer.

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Red meat

Studies show eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase the chance of colorectal cancer. Some studies also link processed meats with a higher incidence of colon cancer. Doctors suggest introducing meat-free days and generally cutting back on the amount of red meat consumed. People should avoid overcooking red meat, which produces chemicals that may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.


Salt-Cured and pickled foods

Cancer studies in the United Kingdom note a higher incidence of nasopharyngeal cancer among those who regularly consume salt-cured fish, a popular dish in China. Research also indicates that eating pickled foods may increase the risk of stomach cancer. According to a study in the American Association for Cancer Research journal, of the 1 million new cases of gastric cancer diagnosed each year, more than half occur in Eastern Asia. Researchers noted a 50% greater likelihood of gastric cancer associated with the consumption of pickled foods, with a higher number of cases in China and Korea.


Microwave popcorn

Popcorn is a fiber-rich, low-fat, healthy snack, but it comes with some caveats. The lining of the bag used to make microwave popcorn contains perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) to resist grease and prevent leaking. PFCs also exist in Teflon pans, pizza boxes, and sandwich wrappers. These PFCs break down into a chemical some researchers believe causes cancer. A majority of Americans have PFCs in their blood, so research is ongoing to figure out how they relate to disease and what level of harm they carry. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, microwave popcorn accounts for more than 20% of the PFOA levels in Americans.

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Food dyes

For many years, there has been a controversy surrounding the use of food dyes. Many studies show many dyes adversely affect laboratory animals. As a result, government agencies have banned several types. The Food and Drug Administration has approved nine food dyes for use in the U.S., including Red No. 3, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5, and Yellow No. 6. Health researchers and food safety officials express concerns over their continued use, but manufacturers continue to add them to candies, sports drinks, baked goods, salad dressings, and even medications.

Research indicates these dyes contain carcinogens and cause cancer in lab animals. As these dyes do not enhance the nutritional quality or safety of foods or medications, scientists continue to argue that they should not be added to food products.

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Maintain a healthy weight

According to the CDC, obesity is a major cancer risk factor due to the changes it causes in the body. There are 13 cancers associated with a high BMI including thyroid, gallbladder, colon, and breast cancer. Following dietary guidelines for adequate nutrition and aiming for at least 150 minutes of exercise a week are simple things everyone can do to reduce their risk of obesity-related cancer.


Protect your skin

Ensuring protection from the sun’s damaging radiation is important year-round, not just during the summer or at the beach. The two main types of skin cancer — basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas — are typically easy to treat but may cause lasting damage or disfiguration. Staying in the shade, avoiding direct sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, and using sunscreen can help protect the skin.

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Reduce alcohol intake

Excessive drinking can cause many health problems, including an increased risk of breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and liver. More than three drinks a day, or more than seven a week for those over 65, is considered heavy drinking. The risk factors are high and there are no health benefits. Monitoring alcohol intake can greatly lower the risk of health complications and cancer.

alcohol and cancer


Stop smoking

Smoking is detrimental to a person’s health and is well-known to cause cancer in every area of the body, especially the lungs. Nine out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarettes. In addition to causing cancer, the harmful chemicals and poisons weaken the immune system and inhibit the body’s ability to fight cancer and other conditions. There are no health benefits to smoking and many risks and complications. Quitting smoking will greatly reduce the chance of cancer. Avoiding second-hand smoke also helps — 7,300 nonsmokers die each year from secondhand smoke.

smoking and cancer risk


Get screened

The risk of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, among others, can be greatly reduced by getting regular cancer screenings and exams. Finding little indicators or small tumors that have yet to metastasize also makes treatment a lot easier and the prognosis much better. Heavy smokers between 55 and 80 — including those who have quit in the last 15 years — are also encouraged to get annual lung cancer screenings.

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Soda's hidden risks

Many of us enjoy a fizzy drink now and then, but frequent consumption of soda may pose health risks. Not only is soda loaded with sugars that can lead to obesity, but the alternative—artificial sweeteners— may have a direct link to cancer. It's always a good idea to limit intake and opt for natural beverages when possible.

Soft drinks and fruit juice mixed with soda high in sugar have a negative effect on physical health


Farmed salmon concerns

While salmon is often praised for its health benefits, the source matters. Farmed salmon can contain contaminants like dioxin concentrations, which may pose an elevated risk for certain cancers. However, even wild-caught salmon can be contaminated with carcinogenic components such as microplastics and toxic pollutants.

Delicious salmon on farmer market in Paris, France


Hydrogenated oils alert

Trans fats, found in hydrogenated oils, have long been associated with heart disease. However, recent studies suggest they might also increase cancer risk. It's advisable to check food labels and avoid products containing these oils.

Cook pouring (refilling) liters of refined oil for deep fat frying in electric modern heating machine. Unhealthy fat Not organic vegetable Refined sunflower light greasy oil, palmolein, hydrogenated.


Betel nuts warning

Popular in some cultures, betel nuts are chewed for their stimulating effects. However, consistent consumption has been linked to white or red lesions in the mouth, which may turn into oral cancer. If you're a regular consumer, it might be time to reconsider this habit.



Sweetener deception

While they cut down on calories, artificial sweeteners come with their own set of concerns. Some studies suggest a potential link between these sweeteners and cancer risk. Opting for natural sweeteners or reducing sugar intake altogether might be a safer bet for long-term health.

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Diet food risks

It's easy to assume that "diet" on the label equals "healthy". However, some diet foods contain artificial ingredients or sweeteners that could be considered carcinogens, such as nitrate-related materials or BHAs. It's essential to read labels carefully and understand what you're consuming.

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Smoked food dangers

The smoky flavor in foods might be tantalizing, but the smoking process can introduce a wide range of carcinogens. If smoked foods are a regular part of your diet, it might be worth exploring other cooking methods such as air frying or roasting, both of which produce crunchy textures and deep flavor profiles.

Smoking Process Fish. Fish processing smoking. Mackerel Fish smoked in smokehouse. Smoking Process Fish. banner, menu, recipe place for text.


GMO debate

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have been a topic of debate for years. While some studies suggest a potential link to cancer, the evidence isn't conclusive and research is ongoing. It's always a good idea to stay informed and make dietary choices that you're comfortable with.

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Salty concerns

Preserving foods with salt has been a method used for centuries. However, excessive consumption of salt-preserved foods [can damage the lining of the stomach and increase the risk of stomach cancer. Additionally, processed foods that boast a high salt content have been connected with both breast and ovarian cancers. It's advisable to enjoy these foods in moderation and balance them with fresh options.

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