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5 Things Linked to Cancer

How hazardous is your life? Have you considered if your daily choices elevate the risk of cancer? Here are five everyday items scientists have linked to cancer:

Sugar

Most non-cancerous cells in the body get their energy by aerobic respiration, a process that involves breaking down digested food into usable, energy-rich molecules. This series of chemical processes require oxygen, then releases carbon dioxide as a byproduct. But not cancer cells.

Even when ample oxygen is available to break down glucose and use it as fuel, cancer cells would instead get energy from fermenting sugar, which has a lower energy yield. This phenomenon is called the “Warburg effect.”

Researchers observed yeast cells in the lab and found that their fermentation process – the same one that cancer cells prefer – actually stimulates tumor growth. [1]

Arsenic

Arsenic is a natural component of the earth’s crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water, and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.

People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through drinking contaminated water, using contaminated water in food preparation and irrigation of food crops, industrial processes, eating contaminated food, and smoking tobacco.

Long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic, mainly through drinking-water and food, can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. Skin lesions and skin cancer are the most characteristic effects. The World Health Organization says at least 140 million people in 50 countries drink water containing high levels of arsenic. [2]

Salt-cured meat or fish and pickled foods

Salt-cured fish, which is popular in China, is high in nitrates and nitrites, known carcinogens in animals that may also cause cancer in humans. The chemical compounds can damage DNA, leading to head and neck cancer. [3]

Eating a lot of pickled foods also can increase the risk of stomach cancer. [4]

Processed meats like ham, bacon, and sausage

The WHO says processed meats like hot dogs, ham, bacon, and sausage can contribute to cancer risk. That’s because the meat has been treated to preserve or flavor it — salting, curing, fermenting, or smoking. It’s possible that any kind of red meat could be linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. [5]

Recent breast-cancer studies found that people who regularly eat more processed meats increase their risk of developing breast cancer by 9%. [6]

Consuming the equivalent of one hot dog or roughly two slices of bacon every day increases your relative risk for colorectal cancer by 18%. [7]

Birth control and estrogens

Women who start menstruation early or go into menopause later may have an increased risk of breast cancer because they’re exposed to more estrogen and progesterone made by the ovaries. [8] Women going through menopause who use a combined estrogen-progestin therapy to help ease their symptoms may also be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Using birth control pills may also increase a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancer, though there is some evidence that being on birth control is associated with a reduced risk of developing other types of cancer, such as uterus, colorectal, and ovarian. [9]

 

Citations

[1] Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate couples glycolytic flux to activation of Ras. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01019-z#Abs1

[2] Arsenic. https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/arsenic

[3] Nasopharyngeal cancer: risks and causes. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/nasopharyngeal-cancer/risks-causes?awc=2584_1565148671_b096d426c18c76d2cae661dad7ca9176

[4] Can Stomach Cancer Be Prevented? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/stomach-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/prevention.html

[5] Q&A on the carcinogenicity of the consumption of red meat and processed meat. https://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/

[6] Consumption of red and processed meat and breast cancer incidence: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/ijc.31848?referrer_access_token=lYFIp4WSMR9bcFqwVNENmE4keas67K9QMdWULTWMo8OaNJGSMsUFRr2nsrojVqnx6vFFHYKiikidsU9vvSClyGAWBJgov0jQQeIWO5YDzKQclDtKiGjSFjqYVPh4de1tO8LVxwDpHTwszLDolsvAYw%3D%3D

[7] Yes, bacon has been linked to cancer again – here’s how bad processed meats actually are for you. https://www.businessinsider.com/does-bacon-cause-cancer-2016-4

[8] Hormones. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones

[9] Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones/oral-contraceptives-fact-sheet