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Tip #13 Beware Food Contaminants

A large number of scientific studies have addressed the potential for dietary components to influence the risk of developing cancer.

Some compounds find their way into the food supply through agricultural use, animal farming, or food processing, even if their use is not directly intended for human consumption. Examples include growth hormones or antibiotics used in animal farming, small amounts of pesticides and herbicides in plant-based foods, and compounds such as bisphenol A (BPA) or phthalates that enter food from packaging.

Some of these compounds are not known to directly cause cancer, but they may influence cancer risk in other ways – for example, by acting as hormone-like substances in the body.

Unintended contamination of food may also result in exposure to chemicals that are a cause of concern and may be related to cancer risk. Examples include heavy metals such as cadmium or mercury. These metals may enter the food supply if they build up the food chain, such as from fish, or they may enter through contamination or their natural presence in soil or water.


People who eat a regular diet of highly salted food double their risk of stomach cancer, according to a report published in the British Journal of Cancer.

A study based on around 40,000 middle-aged Japanese examined dietary, drinking and smoking habits over an 11-year period.

The study shows that the risk of stomach cancer for Japanese men with the lowest salt intake was one in 1000 per year. This doubled to one in 500 among those with the highest salt intake.

For women with a low salt intake the risk was one in 2000, rising to one in 1300 for those whose diet was high in salt.

Gastric or stomach cancer is the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths worldwide with an estimated 776,000 deaths in 1996. It is the fourth most common cancer in the world; in the UK stomach cancer is the sixth most common cancer with 10,000 new cases each year.

Benefits of Organic Foods

Organic and locally produced foods may have environmental benefits such as using less pesticides or fertilizers. These foods, like others, can be exposed to harmful bacteria during the growing and harvesting process.

What can be done in the kitchen to reduce dietary intake of pesticides?

It is difficult to for a consumer to determine whether vegetables or fruits contain pesticide residues as often they do not have any noticeable smell, taste or visual defect. The following precautions can be taken to reduce dietary exposure to pesticide residue if agricultural products are sold in common market;

These five steps are especially important in preventing foodborne illness :

Did you know?

Reusing cooking oil can cause cancer
The problem with reusing oil is that it can create “free radicals” which can cause ailments in the long run. These free radicals can be carcinogenic i.e. can cause cancer and also atherosclerosis which can lead to increase in bad cholesterol levels, blocking the arteries.


Environmental Working Group

World Health Organisation


American Cancer Society

Cancer Prevention

Page updated 2024

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