Top 10 Cancer Causing Foods

Cancer is a disease that you should never take lightly. There are cases where it strikes quickly but often, cancer manifests after years of specific habits. Good examples of this are smoking and overexposure to ultraviolet rays, which result in lung cancer and skin cancer, respectively.

Experts estimate that more than half the cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States -  more than 1.6 million in 2014 -  are preventable with lifestyle changes.

There is one area of your daily life that dramatically affects your -  and survival -  of cancer. The food and beverages you consume, the fuel your body uses to fight disease, is critical to your overall wellbeing. Some foods are worse for you than others and could be increasing your risk of many conditions and diseases. While cancer is one of the worst, regularly eating the foods in our top ten list can also lead to heart disease, diabetes, and chronic inflammation.

Top Ten Cancer Causing Foods to Avoid

1. Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs): The rapidly growing industry of genetically modified crops are infiltrating our food supply at an alarming rate. More than 90% of our corn and soy are now genetically modified. This fairly new practice is the source of many debates. Experts agree that adequate testing was not done before GMO foods were added to the ingredient listing of thousands of products. Look for GMO-free labels whenever possible. See our exclusive report on the dangers of GMO foods.

Top 10 Cancer Causing Foods 2. Microwave Popcorn: From the chemical-lined bag to the actual contents, microwave popcorn is at the center of lung cancer debates around the world. Not only are the kernels and oil likely GMO (which the manufacturer does not have to disclose), but the fumes released contain diacetyl, which is toxic to humans.

Is microwave popcorn toxic?

Popcorn is one of the world’s most popular confections, frequently enjoyed in ballparks, movie theaters and at home. Popcorn makers sell three billion bags of microwave popcorn every year [source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer]. However, some doctors and consumer groups have been concerned that a chemical used to give microwave popcorn its tasty butter flavor may pose a serious health hazard.

The chemical is called diacetyl, and it’s used in the production of microwave popcorn, but it has also likely led to scores of factory workers developing a severe lung condition. Diacetyl occurs naturally in some foods, including butter and many dairy products, fruits, wine and beer. It’s reportedly used in “thousands” of food products to add or increase butter flavoring [source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer].

Hundreds of factory workers have developed a condition called “popcorn lung,” also known by the medical name bronchiolitis obliterans. The condition is caused by inhalation of diacetyl fumes, which cause scarring in the lungs. Sufferers of popcorn lung have difficulty exhaling, and when severe, the condition can be fatal. In many cases of severe bronchiolitis obliterans, only a lung transplant will save a patient’s life. Some former popcorn factory workers died while waiting for transplants.

In September 2007, the murmurs of concern surrounding microwave popcorn became louder as some began to wonder whether consumers were in danger as well. The publicity, caused in part by a suspected case of popcorn lung in a consumer, led four major popcorn makers to announce that they planned to drop diacetyl. The companies - Weaver Popcorn Co., ConAgra Foods Inc., American Popcorn Company and General Mills Inc. - had, as of early September, phased out use of the chemical or claimed they would within a year. The companies differed in their reasons for dropping the chemical, but some cited consumer concerns or issues of worker health.

3. Canned Goods: Most cans are lined with a product called bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been shown to genetically alter the brain cells of rats. Many plastic goods, thermal paper, water lines, and many dental composites also contain BPA.

Risks for Consumers of Microwave Popcorn

Dr. Cecile Rose, a lung specialist at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colo., diagnosed the first case of popcorn lung in a consumer of microwave popcorn. That consumer, a man named Wayne Weston, claimed he made microwave popcorn at least twice a day for 10 to 12 years. He said that he loved the smell of buttered popcorn and would open the bag in front of his face and inhale the fumes. But over time Weston developed difficulty breathing and an incessant cough, which eventually landed him in the care of Dr. Rose, an expert on popcorn lung.

While Dr. Rose said that there’s no definitive link between Watson’s consumption of microwave popcorn and his illness, the connection appears strong. Tests of Watson’s home revealed that when popcorn was being cooked, fume levels were comparable to those found in factories [source:]. It likely didn’t help that Watson placed his face directly in the path of the diacetyl-laced steam billowing from popcorn bags and did so thousands of times.

In July 2007, Dr. Rose sent a letter about her findings to government health officials, who said they would look into the case. Dr. Rose’s tests showed that Watson’s symptoms were consistent with popcorn lung, and after he stopped eating buttered popcorn, his lung function improved. He was able to stop taking some of his medications. He also lost 50 pounds.

Eating microwave popcorn is not believed to be harmful. The danger comes from the fumes given off in the cooking process, and consistent exposure to those fumes may be dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration has said that diacetyl is safe to consume, but some consumer rights advocates say more studies need to be done. Proposed legislation in California would ban diacetyl, and a Congresswoman from Connecticut requested that the FDA ban diacetyl until its effects are better understood.

4. Grilled Red Meat: While grilling tastes delicious, scientists have discovered that preparing meats in this way -  especially processed meats like hot dogs -  releases a carcinogen called heterocyclic aromatic amines. When you grill red meat to the point of well-done, it changes the chemical and molecular structure of the meat.

A new report from the Breast Cancer Fund reveals 12 canned soups and pastas found to contain BPA - an estrogen-like chemical raising concern among experts for its potential health effects in children, infants and fetuses.

Topping the list was Campbell’s Disney Princess Cool Shapes with 148 parts per billion. The average level across all 12 cans was 49 parts per billion.

“The findings of this report outline the urgent need to remove BPA from food packaging - a major source of exposure to this toxic hormone disruptor - especially in foods marketed to children,” the report states.

BPA, a key ingredient in hard plastics and resins used to coat metal cans, made headlines in 2008 when it was shown to leach out of plastic when heated. The Canadian government responded by banning the chemical from baby bottles. In the United States, the federal government has not followed suit, but several local governments have and leading U.S. baby bottle manufacturers went BPA-free voluntarily. But the chemical continues to line the country’s cans.

“I think they’re definitely right in trying to get this chemical out of canned foods,” said Dr. John Spangler, professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “We can’t do anything about past exposures but we can do something about current exposures.”

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