World Cancer Day 2019: What Foods And Drinks Are Most Likely To Cause Cancer?

World Cancer Day 2019: The estimated number of deaths due to cancer in 2018 was 9.5 million, which amounts to a whopping 26,000 deaths a day. This number is expected to increase as environmental stresses increase, air quality worsens, lifestyles and eating habits too!

World Cancer Day is an international day, marked on 4th February to increase awareness of cancer, and to encourage its prevention, early detection and treatment. The theme for World Cancer Day 2019 is – ‘I am and I will‘. The estimated number of deaths due to cancer in 2018 was 9.5 million, which amounts to a whopping 26,000 deaths a day. This number is expected to increase as environmental stresses increase, air quality worsens, lifestyles and eating habits too!

Substances that induce free radical damage and promote cancerous cells are called carcinogens. Carcinogens can be different agents like:

  • Physical carcinogens (ultraviolet and ionizing radiations)
  • Biological carcinogens (certain bacteria, viruses and parasites)
  • Chemical carcinogens (synthetic products created by industry, components of smoke, pesticide residues, chemicals used in the food industry etc).

Apart from the above, there are some factors which increase cancer risk, these include:

  • increasing age
  • stressful lifestyle associated with poor nutritional status owing to low fruit & vegetable intake
  • use of tobacco, alcohol
  • chronic infections
  • being overweight too increases the risk of breast, esophageal, colorectal, ovarian and endometrial cancer.


Foods which can increase risk of cancers of different types include:

Highly salted foods: Regular consumption of highly salted foods like cured meats, salted fish etc can lead to stomach cancer by damaging the stomach lining and causing inflammation. Always opt for fresh and local produce.

Processed & smoked meats: Processed meats including ham, bacon, sausages and salami can increase the risk of bowel, stomach and pancreatic cancer. When smoked foods are cooked at high temperatures, the nitrates present in them (that have been added to prolong shelf life) convert into the more dangerous nitrites.


Processed and packaged foods contain high amounts of trans and saturated fats.
Photo Credit: iStock


Charred meats: When red meat and processed meats are grilled to a high temperature and charred, it produces DNA damaging heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. So cook on medium heat, flipping at intervals; baking at moderate temperature and broiling are also safe cooking methods.

Microwavable popcorn: The bag of microwavable popcorns is lined with perfluoro-octanoic acid (PFOA) which is a likely carcinogen. The corn kernels are genetically modified and the fumes released from the artificial butter contain diacetyl and are toxic to humans. So make your popcorns the traditional way.

Hydrogenated fats: Change the shape of cellular membranes and promote the growth of abnormal cells, these are definitely very harmful. These should be replaced with a variety of healthier fats & oils like desi ghee, coconut oil, mustard oil, groundnut oil etc used in moderation.

Sodas: Sodas are a deadly concoction of harmful colors, preservatives loaded with tons of sugar and hidden sugars. So remain loyal to the good, old nimboo-pani or nimboo soda; adding a little bit of sugar is not harmful. What is harmful is the hidden sugar added by the manufacturers in processed and packaged foods.

Packaged foods containing hidden sugars: Hidden sugars like high fructose corn syrup are one of the major cancer causing foods which leads to spikes in serum insulin and also feeds cancer cells. All sources of hidden sugars like bakeries, confectionaries, biscuits, ready to eat breakfast cereals, energy bars and the so-called health drinks etc should be avoided.

Artificial sweeteners: Switching to artificial sweeteners to save some calories is not a wise decision either. Several studies have shown a link between artificial sweeteners and cancer risk in lab studies.

 Canned foods: The lining of most cans contain bisphenol A (BPA) which is known to increase cancer risk. Many plastic packaging also contain BPA. Of canned goods, tomatoes and its products are the worst because their acidity causes more BPA to leach into the food.

Piping hot foods: These have been associated with a greater risk of esophageal cancer. Extremely hot foods should be avoided.

Alcohol: Several studies have established the link between alcohol intake and cancer though the exact mechanism is not understood. It could be through promoting weight gain. Moderation in consumption is critical to minimize its damaging effects.

Pesticide residues in foods have adverse health effects and may increase the risk of cancers. One simple way to eliminate some pesticide residue is to dip your fruits, vegetable and fresh produce in a vessel containing 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar for about 20 minutes and then rinse with clean water.


There are some food items that help in preventing the growth of cancer cells. These include turmeric, garlic, citrus fruits, berries, tomatoes, purple-red fruits & veggies, high-fibre whole grains, nuts & seeds, beans, leafy veggies etc. Regular consumption of these, abstinence from smoking, alcohol and an overall healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce cancer risk.


There are some food items that help in preventing the growth of cancer cells.
Photo Credit: iStock

1. Garlic

Garlic contains an active component known as allicin, which has been proven to destroy cancer cells. Studies shows consumption of Garlic has a lower risk of several types of cancer. It also reduces the risks of prostate, stomach as well as colorectal cancers. Add 2 to 5 grams of fresh garlic daily in your diet and take the advantages of its cancer preventing properties.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is a common kitchen ingredient which is widely used for its numerous health-promoting properties. An active ingredient present in turmeric known as curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even anti-cancer properties. In addition, the spice has been associated to slowing the growth and development of lungs, breast and prostate cancer cells. For the good results, include 3 teaspoons of ground turmeric daily in your diet.

3. Ginger

Cancer fighting properties found in ginger helps in the killing of ovarian cancer cells as well as reduced swelling in the colon. Ginger is undoubtedly a great herb which is used for various purposes. You can add a slice of ginger in your tea or can sprinkle some finely cut ginger in oatmeal bowl every morning.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli is full of sulforaphane – a plant-base compound found in cruciferous vegetables with strong anti-cancer properties. Sulforaphane helps in reducing the number of breast cancer cells by 75 percent. Cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli is linked to lower the risk of colorectal and colon cancer. Add broccoli in few meals per week to get the benefit of its cancer-fighting properties.

5. Carrots

Eating carrots can perhaps reduce the growth of stomach cancer up to by 26 percent. It also lowers the odds of developing prostate cancer. Hence you can include carrots in your diet as a salad or snack for at least three to four days a week to prevent from the risk of cancer.


Disclaimer: All information, data and material has been sourced from multiple authors and is for general information and educational purposes only and are not intended to replace the advice of your treating doctor.

The views and nutritional advice expressed are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

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