Cancer is tricky. It's cunning, sometimes subtle, but it's always dangerous. And today, it seems like just about everything can cause it. Due to all the conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to filter through the noise. The worst part is, like the sugar that companies slip into many foods, cancer-causing products are sneaky. It even makes its way into certain foods. To help you understand what some of these are, we've put together a list of some foods that you may want to avoid, or at least reduce your intake of them, to help your body fight against cancer:
1. Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is convenient and, let's face it, smells amazing in the office. It's simply a matter of taking the wrapper off the package and throwing it in the microwave - how easy is that? Unfortunately, beyond whether you worry about GMO corn or the type of oil that your snack is being cooked in, there is the matter of the popcorn bag itself. Most bags are lined with perfluorooctanoate, or PFOA. A common form of PFOA is Teflon. In 2005, a lawsuit was brought against DuPont for West Virginia and Ohio residents and workers who were exposed to PFOAs. A science panel, appointed by both sides and considered unbiased, was created to examine the reports and evidence brought by the lawsuit. Their conclusion was that, in addition to other health issues, exposures to PFOAs (otherwise known as C8) has probable link to certain cancers. Those additional healthy issues, by the way, include thyroid problems and impaired fertility.
The bottom line: Avoid PFOAs by creating your own DIY: Microwave popcorn in a paper bag from The Skinny Fork.
There is also conflicting evidence about nitrites and nitrates (the latter is converted to nitrites when consumed) in our food. For years, nitrites were regulated in meat products because they were found to cause cancer in very large quantities. However, according to the CDC, 80 percent of the nitrites you take in come from your vegetables, not your meat intake. In fact, your body actually produces its own. However, don't go out and buy lunch meat and stock up on bacon in celebration just yet - while there are conflicting studies on whether nitrites are cancer-causing, there are, more often than not, other additives in your bacon or bologna that are linked to cancer. And because the meats we purchase are usually behind the deli counter glass, getting to read the ingredients list is inconvenient and often difficult. You can do your research beforehand by looking up the ingredients online, or you can purchase pre-packaged meat where you can read what is actually going into your lunch meat.
The bottom line: It's best to limit your processed meats intake. Instead of deli meat, cook extra chicken for dinner and use it for salads and sandwiches like this recipe and storage idea from Small Home Big Start. When possible, eat meats that have been grass-fed or free-range with as little processing as possible.
3. Canned Goods
Bisphenol A, or BPA, showed up in the news a few years ago because studies revealed that this plastic leeches into food, especially when heated. Bisphenol A has been linked to many things, including breast cancer and, equally bad, reduced efficacy of chemotherapy. A large part of why this was such a big deal is because bisphenols are in quite a few of our household products, including baby bottles and the lining of canned goods. The public outcry led to many products touting the "BPA-free" stamp of approval. Unfortunately, though, Bisphenol S, or BPS was put into use as an alternative to BPA, recent studies such as this one from the University of Texas, show similar cancer-causing properties in the plastic substitute. The ethics of using a barely studied plastic product aside, the alternative of BPA in canned goods doesn't look so great either.
The bottom line: Avoid the use of canned goods whenever possible or look for cans labeled BPA free. Find substitutes in glass jars, or use fresh or frozen instead. When unavoidable, choose products that aren't high in fat since BPA tends to combine more with fats. For a more comprehensive look at the dangers of BPA, visit the Breast Cancer Fund for further explanation.
Cancer is, unfortunately, a fact of life (for now). While the list of cancer-causing products can feel overwhelming, don't let it carry you away with anxiety. Take a deep breath and remember that this is a journey. Just like changing your diet is a lifestyle, choosing to reduce your exposure to products linked to cancer is a lifestyle. Taking one step at a time is crucial. The most important factor is to keep yourself well-educated on these matters. Be aware of what you're putting into your body so that you remain happy and healthy.
Tammy is a certified health coach currently writing to help encourage nutrition and healthy living, both inside and out. She's new to Dr. Bailey's team, sharing in Dr. Bailey's passion for natural skin care and dislike of processed sugar (despite her impressive sweet tooth). When she isn't writing and talking to people about food, she's traveling, taking pictures, and reading trashy romance and nutrition books.