To be classified as a carcinogen, convincing evidence must link the intake of a food or drink to an elevated cancer risk and demonstrate how cancer may develop as a result. 

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization divides carcinogens into five categories based on their likelihood of causing cancer: known, probable, possible, unclassifiable, and probably not carcinogenic.

Cancer is a complex disease to understand. There are several forms of cancers, as well as numerous possible causes. Although we don’t have all the answers, we know that a range of variables can play a role in tumor growth.

A person’s genetic make-up and family history both play a part. However, external variables, such as your living habits, which you may have some influence over, have an even more significant impact. In reality, 80 to 90 percent of malignant tumors are linked to external causes, according to studies.

Diet is an essential lifestyle variable to consider. That’s because a significant body of evidence suggests that specific diets are linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

Let’s look at some foods and drinks that may raise your cancer risk, as well as what the scientific data says about the relationship between these foods and cancer risk.

Foods to avoid if you want to reduce your chances of getting cancer

Certain foods can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, both of which are linked to certain cancers. Carcinogens are toxic chemicals in foods that have the potential to cause cancer.

It’s worth emphasizing; however, that carcinogen exposure does not necessarily result in cancer. It depends on your genetics, as well as the amount and duration of carcinogen exposure.

The IARC considers the following foods and beverages to be carcinogenic to humans:

Alcoholic beverages

When the body breaks down alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde, a chemical compound that can damage DNA and cause cancer. According to studies, the more alcohol you consume, the more likely you will acquire cancers such as head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer.

Processed meats; red meat

Bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, prosciutto, beef jerky, and salami are just a few examples of meats typically preserved by curing, salting, smoking, or using chemical preservatives.

According to studies, consuming 50 grams of processed meat each day—equivalent to four strips of bacon or one hot dog—raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.

According to Langlois, if you must consume processed meats, seek nitrate and nitrite-free varieties with no additional preservatives.

Charred or high-temperature-cooked meats

Meats cooked at high temperatures produce chemicals that might alter your DNA, perhaps resulting in cancer. Colorectal, pancreatic, and prostate cancer are all associated with eating a lot of well-done, fried, or grilled meat. Langlois suggests braising, roasting, or boiling meat while cooking it. Additionally, marinating meats before cooking may assist in decreasing the formation of carcinogens.

Scorching drinks (over 149°F)

Drinks like coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are typically made at lower temperatures in the United States, so they’re usually not a problem.

Sugar isn’t on these lists since it hasn’t been linked to cancer directly, but it does provide empty calories, contributing to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is related to 13 different forms of cancer, which is an increasing worry in a country where the typical American consumes 89 grams of sugar per day—two to three times the recommended amount. 

Cutting additional sugars from your diet is one of the simplest ways to slim down while simultaneously lowering your risk of heart disease.

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