Do you know around 2.5 million in India live with cancer?
Do you know over 7 lakh new cancer cases get registered every year in India?
Do you know around 5,56,400 people die of cancer every year in India?
Do you know 71 percent of all cancer-related deaths occur between the age group of 30-69 years?
Do you know over 50 percent of all cancer deaths in India are due to oral and lung cancer in men; and cervix and breast cancer in women?
These are a few statistics highlighted by cancer-awareness portal Cancer India.
Quite surprisingly, health experts suggest that a healthy diet can cut on the risk of cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, a balanced diet can reduce the risk of many cancers like bowel cancer, stomach cancer, mouth cancer and food pipe (oesophageal) cancer.
But blame it on our busy lifestyle that affects our choice of foods, quite ironically, we end up eating food that contains carcinogen, instead of the other way round.
Recently, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) unveiled an investigative report where it claimed to have found cancer-causing chemicals potassium bromate and potassium iodate as additives in the bread of almost 84 percent of 38 commonly available brands, including Britannia, McDonalds, and Subway.
Here are 9 common foods that are a part of our meal-time, and may increase the risk of cancer:
1. Betel leaf quid (paan) and betel/areca nut (supari):
With or without ‘gutka’ (tobacco), chewing “paan” with “supari” may increase the risk of developing oropharyngeal cancers.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), in a report, said: “There is substantial evidence for carcinogenicity of areca nut in cancers of the mouth and esophagus.”
2. Processed meat:
If you are one of those who grab a hot dog, ham, bacon or sausage for a quick lunch, it’s high time you let go of the habit.
Processed meat undergoes a lot of salting, curing, fermentation and smoking that might increase the chances of bowel cancer.
Chemical conservatives like nitrate and sodium nitrate are used in processed meat that are considered highly carcinogenic.
Replace the pepperoni and salami with lean meats like chicken and fish, and even turkey.
3. Red meat:
Indians love red meat, especially mutton or lamb. Period. It is seen as a royal cuisine in our country.
But no matter how much iron, Vitamin B, and protein it contains, studies have shown that when we consume red meat, the haemoglobin in it in metabolizes to ‘possibly carcinogenic’ N-nitroso compounds.
According to researchers at World Health Organization (WHO), if an individual consumes 100 gram of red meat daily, the risk of him succumbing to colorectal cancer increases by 17%.
3. Refined sugar:
Refined sugar leads to high insulin levels, that in turn “feed” the cancer cells in the body.
The Truth About Cancer website warns that fructose-rich sweeteners like High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) promote the growth of tumours and cancer cells.
So, it’s better to stay off HFCS processed foods like cookies, cakes, pies, sodas, juices, sauces and cereals.
4. White/Refined flour:
White flour is nothing but flour ripped off all its nutritional value after it is bleached with chlorine gas.
The Glycemic Index (GI) of white flour ranges between 71-75, which means, it can cause insulin resistance and fuel the growth of cancer cells.
5. Hydrogenated oils:
Hydrogenated oils used to preserve processed food are actually vegetable oils extracted from their source vegetables and are packed with chemicals to enhance aroma and taste of the product.
According to health-related portal Natural News, hydrogenated oils “alter the structure and flexibility of cell membranes throughout the body, which can lead to a host of debilitating diseases such as cancer.”
6. Farmed fish:
It is a known fact that in a commercial fish farm, in order to boost production, lots of carcinogenic chemicals, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), flame retardants, pesticides and antibiotics are used.
Studies by the Environmental Working Group have found out that farmed fish contain 10 times more cancer-causing organic pollutants than wild ones. So, now on, go for fresh water or sea fish, instead.
7. Potato chips:
There is hardly an Indian household devoid of a packet(s) of potato chips on its kitchen shelf. This crispy, crunchy, yet cheap snack is a must-have in all get-togethers and while bonding over cricket matches or movies.
But since potato chips are high in trans-fat and sodium content, your body weight and blood pressure go kaput when you have these.
Also, according to American Cancer Society, potato chips, and French fries have high levels of acrylamide, a carcinogenic chemical compound found in cigarettes as well.
8. Artificial sweeteners:
Artificial sweeteners contain aspartame that may make one vulnerable to convulsions, cataracts, and gastroparesis.
Consumption of artificial sweeteners forms Diketopiperazine (DKP) toxin in the body, which is a byproduct of aspartame metabolism. This toxin is known to cause brain tumours.
The National Cancer Institute said though there is no clear evidence of saccharin causing cancer in humans, during experiments, cyclamate when combined with saccharin was found to cause bladder cancer in laboratory animals.
We have a very common answer to people who question our drinking habit, that is, we drink to keep our heart healthy. But, truth is, drinking does us more bad than good.
The American Cancer Society has listed the types of cancers caused by regular alcohol consumption. They are – mouth, throat (pharynx) voice box (larynx), esophagus, liver, colon and rectum, breast and pancreas cancers.
“Alcohol can act as an irritant, especially in the mouth and throat. Cells that are damaged may try to repair themselves, which could lead to DNA changes in the cells that can be a step toward cancer,” says the American Cancer Society.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.