Do These Food Items Cause Cancer?

By: Sukhada, Diamond

Published On: April 21, 2022

We are quite familiar with the line, ‘Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption cause cancer.’ We often see it while watching actors smoke or drink on the screen. It has been proven that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and of death from it. According to a report by Tata Memorial Centre, around 1 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed every year. The cost of cancer treatments in India can cost lakhs of rupees. The average cost of chemotherapy in India is Rs. 8 lakh. Not everyone can afford these out-of-pocket expenses. There are a few platforms that provide financial help for cancer patients. Various organizations help cancer patients financially. However, one can prevent or abate the occurrence of cancer in the first place with proper knowledge of what may cause cancer. So, do some foods that we eat regularly cause cancer? Let’s find out! 

Microwaved food: Microwave ovens use microwave radiation for heating food, but they do not make the food radioactive. Microwaves heat food by causing water molecules to vibrate. The faster the molecules vibrate, the hotter the food becomes. Thus, it is a long-held misconception that eating food cooked in a microwave can lead to cancer.  

Betel nut: Chewing betel nut is an ancient practice in our country and is still prevalent today. Items such as paan, gutka, pan masala, mawa contain betel nuts in them. The World Health Organization classifies betel nuts as carcinogenic. Betel nut chewing leads to oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), an oral precancerous condition and transforms into a malignant tumour in 1.5–15% of all cases.

Maida: We often enjoy eating stuff like hot samosas, burgers, naans etc. What do these items contain? A study by the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment found that about 84% of 38 popular brands of bread, buns and ready-to-eat burger and pizza contained potassium bromate and iodate in them. There is some evidence that these substances can cause cancer in humans.

Overcooked or burnt food: When starchy foods such as potatoes and toast are overcooked or burnt, an element called Acrylamide is released. In 1994, the International Agency for Research on Cancer listed Acrylamide as an industrial chemical with potential carcinogenic risk to humans. Thus, consumption of overcooked or burnt food isn’t healthy.

Meat: According to a study by The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), eating processed meat can result in colorectal cancer. The Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent academic research organization stated that about 34000 cancer deaths occurred per year worldwide due to consumption of diets high in processed meat.

Sugar: Sugar itself is not a carcinogenic substance but overconsumption of added sugars in processed beverages and foods can contribute to obesity which is a potential risk factor for cancer. However, there is no evidence that consuming sugar makes cancer cells grow faster or even causes cancer.

Canned Food: Some metal cans are lined with a sealant containing BPA. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is primarily used in the production of polycarbonate plastics. According to a World Health Organization report, BPA does not induce cell transformation and is unlikely to pose a genotoxic hazard to humans. However, some studies have shown that BPA can regulate the multiplication and migration of prostate cancer cells. However, there is currently insufficient evidence on which to judge the carcinogenic potential of BPA. 

Recommended read: The Different Types of Cancer Fighting Foods

The Perils of Cancer

Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases today. According to a World Health Organization report, 1 in 10 Indians may get cancer during their lifetime while 1 in 15 Indians may die of it. As is the case with most medical emergencies, cancer expenses during a time crunch can be hard to meet. Many patients have to lose their life-long savings or take huge loans thus risking their family’s financial future. 

Fight Cancer With GEM

Today, there are various crowdfunding platforms in India that provide help to people with cancer through online fundraising. Some crowdfunding websites such as ImpactGuru have aided a number of people to raise money online for their urgent medical treatments. With the help of donors from 165+ countries, ImpactGuru has impacted more than 5 lakh lives to date.  

Read success stories here.

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