Top 14 Foods Causing Cancer

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

Every year, almost 10 million people die from cancer. This statistic has prompted scientists to explore the potential link between diet and the disease. Their research has raised questions about how often certain foods can be consumed, and whether they should be avoided altogether.

Top 14 Foods Causing Cancer

While some headlines may suggest avoiding certain foods entirely, the truth is far more complicated. Some carcinogens, or cancer-causing compounds, originate from packaging materials rather than the food itself, while other foods pose no risk unless consumed in excessive amounts. Still, some foods do present a genuine cancer risk.

In today’s video, we look at the science-backed truth behind cancer-causing foods and drinks.

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We begin with Number 14. “Too Much Sugar”

While it’s true that all cells in your body, including cancer cells, use sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat as an energy source, research shows that eating sugar does not necessarily lead to cancer.

However, this fact made people think that cutting back on sugar could “starve” cancer cells and stop them from growing. While this idea has some truth to it, sugar alone does not cause cancer.

The American Institute for Cancer Research says there is an “indirect link” between eating a lot of high-sugar foods and getting cancer.

This is because eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity. And studies show that being overweight or obese increases the risk of getting 12 types of cancers, including colon, breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer.

So, while reducing sugar alone cannot directly “starve” cancer cells, it’s still important to reduce sugar intake to help prevent weight gain, obesity, and the associated increased cancer risk.

“Too much sugar” refers to eating a diet high in added sugar and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries, soft drinks, and fruit juices.

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The next drink is Number 13. “Soda and Juice”

For many years, health experts have warned about the dangers of sugary drinks like soda. However, a 2019 French study from the NutriNet-Santé group provided shocking evidence linking even moderate soda drinking to higher cancer risk.

The study found that drinking just 4 ounces of soda per day – one-third of an average soda can – increased the overall risk of cancer by 18%. Surprisingly, the study also showed that 100% fruit juices with no added sugar were “significantly linked” to higher cancer rates, likely because their high sugar content (greater than 5%), is similar to soda.

Although juices contain some vitamins and fiber, the lead researcher Dr. Mathilde Touvier said their high sugar levels still increase risks like obesity and type 2 diabetes, which are known to raise cancer risk.

While juices performed slightly better than sodas, Touvier recommended drinking less than one cup per day to reduce these dangers.

And at Number 12, we have “Artificial Sweeteners”

Over the years, artificial sweetener ingredients have raised health concerns due to animal studies linking them to potential cancer risks.

According to the National Cancer Institute, studies showed saccharin may promote bladder cancer in animals. In addition, research from 2005 and 2021 noted aspartame encouraged leukemia and lymphoma in rats.

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Food safety authorities like the FDA, and Food Standards Australia and New Zealand, claim that approved artificial sweeteners are safe for consumption based on their reviews.

These sugar substitutes continue to see widespread use in products like diet sodas, packaged foods, tabletop sweetener packets, pharmaceuticals, and yogurts to reduce calorie intake while still providing sweetness.

In general, it’s best not to put foreign chemicals into your body regularly. Healthier substitutes for artificial sweeteners include fresh or frozen fruits, small amounts of honey or maple syrup, and plant-based sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit.

Moving on, we have Number 11. “Vegetable Oils”

vegetable oil

Vegetable oils–including corn, sunflower, palm, and soybean are not the best choices for cooking. Research from 2015 showed that heating these oils releases high levels of aldehydes, chemicals linked to cancer, heart disease, and dementia. Shockingly, frying foods in vegetable oils produced 100 to 200 times more toxic aldehydes than the safe daily limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Recently, a 2019 study at the University of Massachusetts found that feeding mice food fried in canola oil increased tumor growth, worsened inflammation, and raised the risk of colon cancer in the animals.

For healthier cooking, it’s better to choose oils like coconut, avocado, and olive oil instead of most vegetable oils.

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Up next is Number 10. “Processed Meats”

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, issued a warning that processed meats, such as those that are salted, cured, fermented, or smoked, may increase the risk of cancer.

This is because the preservatives and chemicals used in processing, such as nitrites and sodium, can damage cells and potentially lead to cancer.

This claim is well-supported by scientific evidence, including an analysis of data from 10 studies that found consuming 50 grams of processed meat per day raises the chances of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

According to Cancer Research UK, processed red meat, like ham, bacon, salami, and hot dogs, poses the highest risk, with an estimated 3% of all cancers linked to its consumption.

Still, experts say that this is a reason to limit processed meat, not cut it out. The occasional hamburger in an overall healthy diet shouldn’t hurt you.

As for unprocessed red meat, the evidence linking their consumption to cancer risk, particularly colorectal cancer, is weaker and less conclusive, compared to processed meat.

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Coming next is Number 9. “Charred Meat”

blackened foods

Do grilled meats pose a cancer risk? The research says: “possibly“. When meats are cooked at high temperatures, such as when frying or grilling, potentially harmful compounds called Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) can form. These compounds have been shown to increase cancer risk in animal studies.

While the evidence in humans is not conclusive, some research indicates that consuming large quantities of charred or well-done meats may be associated with a higher risk of certain cancers, particularly breast, prostate, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers, likely due to higher levels of HCAs.

Also, when fat drips onto hot coals during grilling, it can produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which may alter DNA and have been linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

To reduce the potential cancer risk from charred meat during grilling, you can marinate meats with vinegar or herbs, partially pre-cook meats, flip frequently, remove any charred bits before eating, and use leaner cuts of meat.

The next food is Number 8. “Milk”

Milk can be good for you, but consuming a lot of dairy products may increase the risk of getting breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, because of the hormones and fat.

A large 28-year study called the Physicians Health Study followed over 21,000 people. It found that those who drank more than 2.5 servings of dairy each day were 34% more likely to get prostate cancer compared to those who drank little dairy.

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Another large study in Sweden discovered that women who drank 2 or more glasses of milk per day had double the risk of “serous ovarian cancer”, compared to women who rarely drank milk.

And the Adventist study found that women who drank higher amounts of cow’s milk (full-fat and low-fat), had 50% increased risk of breast cancer.

The next drink is Number 7. “Alcohol”

You won’t get cancer from enjoying an occasional drink. However, heavy daily drinking can significantly increase your risk of developing six different cancers: esophageal, larynx, mouth and throat, colon and rectum, breast, and liver cancers.

This is because alcohol contains a chemical called acetaldehyde that can damage DNA and prevent it from repairing properly, allowing cancer cells to grow.

While the American Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol intake to two drinks per day for men and one for women, even light drinking with just one serving per day may slightly raise the cancer risk, according to a 2019 study published in the journal CANCER.

Moving on, we have Number 6. “Microwave Popcorn”

microwave popcorn

While nothing inside popcorn poses a cancer risk, the lining inside the microwavable bag does. Research in 2013 found that these bags contain perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which resist grease and prevent leaking.

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These chemicals are linked to increased risk of testicular and kidney cancer in animal studies. In human studies, PFAS exposure has been associated with higher risks of testicular, kidney, breast and ovarian cancers.

But will eating the popcorn increase PFAS? According to a 2019 study in Environmental Health Perspectives, participants who ate this popcorn had PFAS in their blood, where they remain for many years.

That’s why PFAS are commonly called “forever chemicals”. They are found in all sorts of everyday items like Teflon cookware, pizza boxes, and food wrappers. Most Americans already have detectable levels of PFAS in their blood.

To reduce cancer risk when making homemade popcorn, air-pop the kernels without any oil or butter.

And at Number 5, we have: “Some Peanuts”

Like popcorn, peanuts’ carcinogens come from the packaging, not the food itself. According to the National Cancer Institute, some peanut molds support the growth of aflatoxins, toxic compounds produced by certain molds that can grow on improperly stored crops, such as peanuts, corn, and grains. Aflatoxins are associated with a heightened risk of liver cancer.

But what happens when you consume peanuts without aflatoxin? Studies show that greater peanut intake is generally linked to lower risks of heart disease and cancer, including breast, colon, and lung cancer risk.

Next is Number 4, “Farm-Raised Salmon”

farmed salmon vs wild salmon

Salmon is a healthy omega-3 rich food. However, farmed salmon contains higher levels of pollutants like PCBs, dioxins, and pesticides compared to wild salmon. These pollutants accumulate from the contaminated fish meal and oil used in farmed salmon feed.

Regular consumption of farmed salmon may increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer, while wild salmon generally has lower pollutant levels, and is considered safer for frequent eating.

Coming into Number 3, we have “Dirty Fruits”

Many people worry about pesticides on fruits and vegetables from the grocery store, even though levels are usually within safety limits. Thus far, no studies have proven a direct link between pesticides on foods like apples and grapes, and increased cancer risk.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, although research shows pesticide exposure is linked to several types of cancer, the evidence is mainly from farmers and workers with very high exposure.

Organic foods are not pesticide-free. They can also have some pesticide residues, as organic farming allows the use of natural pesticides. But they are generally at lower levels than conventional produce with synthetic pesticides.

To reduce pesticide intake, wash, scrub, or peel fruits and vegetables before eating to remove surface residues.

Next is Number 2. “Ultra-Processed Foods”

Ultra-processed foods (UPF), such as instant noodles, chicken nuggets, white bread, potato chips, French fries, and margarine, have long been linked to obesity, but recent research reveals their connection to cancer as well.

A 2023 study found that for every 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption, there was a staggering 19% increased risk of ovarian cancer, and a 16% increased risk of dying from breast cancer.

These industrial-made foods, containing five or more ingredients and high amounts of fructose, salt, and additives designed to mimic natural flavors, have been implicated in various cancers.

According to a 2006 study in the International Journal of Cancer, eating five slices of white bread per day doubles a person’s risks of kidney cancer.

Also, wheat grown in Western countries is widely sprayed with the herbicide glyphosate, which is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation in 2015.

In 2022, the Hong Kong Consumer Council discovered that over 90% of margarine with vegetable oils contained the carcinogen glycidol.

In addition, brown, crispy potato chips and French fries contain acrylamide, a carcinogenic compound formed when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, also found in cigarette smoke.

Animal studies have consistently shown that exposure to acrylamide increases the risk for several types of cancer.

Moreover, a British study analyzing data from over 470,000 individuals linked high salt consumption to a 40% higher risk of stomach cancer.

Consequently, limiting or avoiding these inflammatory ultra-processed foods is crucial not only for maintaining a healthy weight, but also for reducing the risk of various cancers.

And at Number 1, we have “GMO”

gmo labeling laws

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.

But GMOs are everywhere, including in most food derivatives made from conventional corn, soybeans, and canola. So, should you eat GMOs? Comment below.

Personally, I stay away from them, but you should make dietary choices that you’re comfortable with.

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