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Can foods cause or prevent cancer: a list of food carcinogens

Articles regularly appear in the press and online that this or that product provokes the development of cancer. The list is growing steadily, and you can't look into the refrigerator without fear ... But are the most popular “accused” really so scary, and can they contribute to the formation of cancer cells? Journalists Which turned to science to find out the truth.

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Processed Meat

Certain meats, such as processed meats (such as bacon, ham, and salami), have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, especially colon and stomach cancers. The fact is that nitrates and nitrites, which are added during meat processing, are proven carcinogens. The World Health Organization says as little as 50 grams of processed meat a day (about 2 slices of bacon) increases the risk of bowel cancer by 18%.


Unlike meat, sugar, which is no less popular "accused" of developing cancer, is not directly related to the development of oncology. This is despite the many scary stories that surround the product.

It is important to remember: in spite of the absence of a direct relationship between sugar consumption and cancer, there is an indirect relationship. Excess sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, but overweight already has a very specific proven connection with the development of cancer.


Although many media outlets regularly blame pesticides, artificial sweeteners, and food additives for cancer, science still hasn't found direct evidence for this. All of the above products and additives are tested for safety before being allowed for use in foods and beverages. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there is “some likelihood” of increased risks only for those who are exposed to high doses of pesticides and additives in connection with their work on farms and industrial plants.

What really increases the risk

In addition to processed meats, other proven factors that increase the likelihood of developing cancer include smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight, sedentary, and unhealthy diets. At the same time, smoking and alcohol are classified as carcinogens of the first class, which means that there is direct evidence of the connection of these factors with the development of cancer. But this does not mean that they are equally harmful. Smoking is a risk factor for at least 15 cancers and is a proven cause of at least 15% of cancers. Alcohol is a confirmed cause in about 3% of cases.

Foods that prevent cancer

In contrast to the terrible news about carcinogenic food, sometimes praising other products - the so-called superfoods - crosses all possible boundaries. Here you can add green tea and turmeric, the benefits of which have not been written only by the lazy.

Traditionally, superfoods include blueberries, pomegranates, and fatty fish - of course, these are healthy and beneficial additions to the diet, but food alone cannot reduce the likelihood of cancer.

Supplements containing high doses of vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants are often promoted to help reduce the risk of cancer; but - sadly - and there is no reliable evidence to support their miraculous properties.

Most scientists and doctors agree on one thing: to reduce the risk of developing cancer, it is best to eat more varied fruits and vegetables, increase fiber intake, maintain a healthy weight, and not smoke.

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