Tag Archives: Carcinogens

Red and Processed Meats Increase Colon Cancer Risk

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Red meat_bunch-of-steak-801548-mIf you eat a lot of red meat or processed meat, you may decide to think twice before the next time you partake. This is because research has shown that a diet high in red and processed meats is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. This post offers you a focused and updated outlook on some of the reasons for this association.

So, what are we talking about? Red meats include beef, pork, veal, and lamb. Processed meats include hot dogs, bologna, sausages, salami, ham, bacon, hamburger patties, and tinned meat. Colon cancer has been found to be more common among people who have a high daily intake of these kinds of meats. A high intake is considered a daily consumption of red and processed meats that exceeds 5 ounces (about 140 grams).

Why are red and processed meats linked to colon cancer?

1.  Cancer-promoting compounds in the meat:

The harmful substances in these meats are mainly animal-based proteins and heme. Animal-based protein may amplify the expression and activation of cancer-causing genes. Furthermore, red meat, but not veggies, contains heme iron that causes oxidative stress and facilitates the production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds, which have been linked to cancer of various organs including the colon.

2.  Cancer-causing agents generated from cooking the meat:

Cooking meat at high temperatures (> 400oF) or on an open flame produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); both are potent carcinogens. These chemicals have toxic effects on the genes and on the metabolism of the large intestine.

3.  Cancer-causing aspects in digesting the meat:

Undigested proteins in the large intestine can increase bacterial fermentation and produce bacterial metabolites, disrupting a balanced and healthy colon cell lining and causing inflammation. The resulting damage to the large intestine significantly increases colon cancer risk.

There still remains much to be learned about exactly how red and processed meat consumption causes colon cancer, but there is some good news for meat lovers, which is that some meats are not linked to colon cancer. These include poultry meats (e.g., chicken, duck, and turkey) and fish (especially salmon, which may even reduce colon cancer risk). As for red meat, it is suggested that bison could be a healthier alternative to other red meat.


Reference: Kim E, Coelho D, Blachier F. Review of the association between meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Nutr Res. 2013;33:983-94.

Image credit: By koosswans

Top 3 Measures to Reduce Cancer Risks at Home

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

I originally published this article online nearly four years ago, and believe it’s important to repost for anyone who may not have read it.

Sweet home mug_6774667607_ec4114c718_nHome sweet home, this American saying might not hold true anymore, especially in terms of health concerns with modern lifestyle. Some health hazards are present right in the comforts of your home. It’s critical to recognize them. Three major areas that involve carcinogens (i.e. cancer-causing substances) include:

1.  Smoking and passive smoking
2.  Radon gas
3.  Personal care and household products

Smoking is a primary risk factor of lung cancer. Also, smoking aggravates cardiovascular diseases and is causally linked to developing cancer of the bladder, colon, pancreas, and upper digestive system. Individuals who smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of suffering from cancer due to carcinogens present in cigarette smoke.

While smoking is an obvious danger, radon gas is odorless and colorless, and worst of all, radioactive. Originating from rocks, soil, and dirt, radon can get trapped in houses or buildings and pollute indoor air. Radon is a known carcinogen and listed as the second cause of lung cancer after smoking, according to the WHO report. It is also the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, as EPA estimates. The potential hazards posed by exposure to indoor radon gas is still of great concern worldwide.

Many consumer products make our homes and work places unsafe, including those we take for granted, such as chemically formulated personal care products, indoor pest control products, and household cleaners. Noticeably, cleaning products are the leading cause of toxic air pollution in our homes, according to the Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices published by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Ironically, household cleaning products are the most common yet most overlooked source of exposure to cancer-causing substances.

Increasing evidence indicates cancer-causing chemicals and toxins in our environment trigger cancer cells to grow out of control. Furthermore, air pollutants can cause birth defects, not to mention other health complications such as allergic reactions, skin burns, eye irritation, breathing problems, and endocrine disorders. So, it is important for us to seriously reconsider household cleaning supplies. A smell of “freshness” and satisfaction from clean settings can mask hazardous substances that bring long-term harm to human health.

To reduce cancer risk factors that you can control, take the following measures to limit your exposure to indoor air pollutants and make your home safe:

1.  Stop smoking and avoid passive smoking
2.  Take precaution against radon gas by increasing ventilation and getting your home tested for radon level.
3.  Start chemical-free and carcinogen-free cleaning.

Besides taking control of cancer-causing substances at your home, lifestyle modification is of significance in cancer prevention too. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoid alcohol intake, get active and become fit. All these actions will help you keep cancer at bay.


Image credit: By essie

Toxic Chemical in Cereal Boxes – Surprising and Frightening on Lack of Regulation

A front page article titled “U.S. regulators lack information on health risks of many chemicals” on Aug. 2 in the Washington Post regarding recent recall of Kellogg’s cereals, is alarming and thought-provoking. The reality told us that toxic chemicals are not only in the household products (cleaners, pesticides, etc), but also sneaking into our food!

Recently, Kellogg recalled 28 million boxes of cereal because customers complained of an odd smell and taste that made some folks sick. What is it? It turns out — a natural component of crude oil, 2-methylnaphthalene, which leaked from the packaging.

“Federal regulators, who are charged with ensuring the safety of food and consumer products, are in the dark about the suspected chemical, 2-methylnaphthalene. The Food and Drug Administration has no scientific data on its impact on human health. The Environmental Protection Agency also lacks basic health and safety data for 2-methylnaphthalene — even though the EPA has been seeking that information from the chemical industry for 16 years.”— cited from the article.

I’m frankly surprised and puzzled… To my knowledge, naphthalene is a possible human carcinogen (concluded by The International Agency for Research on Cancer and EPA), as I informed the public on our website. I’m not an expert on 2-methylnaphthalene, but simple chemistry suggests that it is a compound structurally related to naphthalene. What is naphthalene? As you might know, it’s a primary ingredient of mothballs.

Next, I did a quick search on PubMed — a resource from the U.S. National Library of Medicine for biomedical literature with approximately 20 million references. Results? There are 124 references on “2-methylnaphthalene” dated from 1960s. Here is a brief summary about 2-methylnaphthalene associated health risks:

1. Lung toxicit: Dietary exposure of mice to 2-methylnaphthalene for 81 weeks (i.e. most of their lives) caused pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, a disorder that rapidly leads to respiratory failure, because the alveolar spaces are filled with an abnormal lipid-rich material that hinders gas exchange. Data from exposure of lab animals (rats and mice) to 2-methylnaphthalene through various routes (including acute inhalation, skin, and abdominal injection) confirmed the lung toxicity. Other respiratory hazards include depressed breathing rate, lung and bronchi cell damage.

2. Tumor development: Exposure to 2-methylnaphthalene significantly increased lung tumors in male mice, although dose-dependent effects are not clear enough to address its carcinogenic potential.

3. Liver toxicity: 2-methylnaphthalene inhibited cell-to-cell communication in cultured rat liver cells. Bear in mind that the chaos of intracellular communication is evident in cancer.

In addition, there are studies on the microorganisms involved and their potentials concerning how 2-methylnaphthalene is metabolized and degraded….

Further studies will, without doubt, help establish health implications in humans. I guess the question is not whether there is related information. The real question is whether the food company wanted to know about it or not.

Chemicals found in food supplies have become an ongoing problem tracing back to BPA, now 2-methylnaphthalene, what will be next? What’s even more frightening is that you probably never find out. As a scientist emphasized at the end of the article, “In this case, it had an odor and it had a taste, so it was detected. But there are hundreds of other potential impurities that we can’t smell and taste, chemicals that we know very little about and the government knows little about.”

We anticipate that the government sets vigorous food safety laws, takes effective and authoritative measures to test products and/or chemicals before they hit the market, in order to protect consumers from any harmful health consequence resulting from industrial self-interest and self-regulation.

For our citizens, this is just one more reason why you need to get informed and become educated. Depending on the manufacturers or government might be too late.

What’s your thought on food safety?

To find out which cereal package is involved in the recall, read:
U.S. regulators lack information on health risks of many chemicals

To learn more about Naphthalene, click here.

Photo credit: by muresan113

Thoughts on the Gulf Oil Spill: from the Seafood We Eat to the Air We Breathe

Before-After-Clean Pelican_4609844828_d1462e89e2_mIf you’ve followed the news about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast for the past month and half, if you’ve seen the tragic images of oil-soaked or oil-coated animals, or learned of the climbing toll of dead and injured birds and marine animals, you’re probably concerned about how much threat this oil disaster poses to our health. Although a few experts claim its toxicity is minor to humans, such advice does little to ease public worries and fears.

Good news: The initial testing of water showed negligible contamination, and the government tried hard to stop the seafood from Gulf regions from becoming distributed into the marketplace.

Anticipated news: Clean-up status? More testing results? Health risks to the public primarily stem from contaminated seafood and inhaled airborne oil toxins. Because hurricane season is approaching, the concern is that oil hazards carried by winds and ocean currents could threaten widespread regions along adjacent shorelines or estuaries.

Bad news: The impact of spill will last years in terms of environmental, economic, and public health consequences.

The truth: The seriousness of long-term health effects on people is inconclusive at this point. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), airborne toxins after an oil spill include toluene, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — all of which are known carcinogens.

What’s the connection with cancer risks?
Crude oil contains a mixture of hundreds of different hydrocarbons, other organic and inorganic, as well as toxic substances. Some of them are carcinogens (i.e., cancer-causing substances), from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene to tar and more. Others cause neurological and reproductive disorders, as well as skin and lung illnesses. Today, let’s just focus on one of them — Benzene. It is known to cause cancer in humans, particularly leukemia.

What is benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, aromatic, highly flammable liquid. It evaporates into air very quickly and dissolves in water slightly. Benzene is used widely in the U.S. (one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume) as a building block for plastics, rubber, resins, nylon and synthetic fabrics, and as a solvent in printing, paints, dyes, detergents, dry cleaning, and pesticides.

What are the sources of benzene in our daily lives?
- The air at gas stations, since gasoline fumes contain relatively high levels of benzene.
- The air emitted from burning coal and oil, and motor vehicle exhaust.
- Cigarette smoke, since benzene is a natural part of tobacco smoke.
- Indoor air from products containing benzene (e.g., glues, paints, detergents, furniture wax).
- Occupational exposure — people working in industries that make or use benzene.

The takeaway message: The impact of health hazards from Gulf oil spill might be minor to populations residing far from the tainted shorelines. But you don’t need to be exposed to a disaster to become exposed to any harmful chemicals released from it. Some of the same carcinogens, such as benzene, occur in our everyday environments, whether you live in New Orleans or Seattle, Florida or Alaska. Become aware of the chemicals you run into on a daily basis.

Tip to share: Air pollution is a reality, whether we’re discussing outdoor or indoor environments; that’s why an air purifier is so essential! I’ve personally benefited from it. Use air purifiers in any space where you spend a significant amount of time, especially for pregnant women, those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory disorders, and those with a weakened immune system.

What’s your thought?

Photo:  Before and after cleaning of the Gulf oiled pelican — credit to International Bird Rescue Research Center

Anatomy of Canned Foods: There’s More Than Just Food

Canned food_3711818475_26f94af1c7_mDo you have a variety of canned foods stocked in your pantry and/or refrigerator?  Spring cleaning is the time to get rid of them and keep them out of both your pantry and body for good. Nowadays the variety of canned foods ranges from drinks, juice, soups, fruits and vegetables, to fish, meat, and whole chicken. Although canned foods are convenient and inexpensive, they pose specific hazards to your health.

Potential health hazards, particularly cancer risks

Let’s take a peek inside the can:

1. The chemical BPA (Bisphenol A) has been used for years in can liners, other than clear plastic bottles. BPA has been linked to serious health problems such as reproductive abnormalities, diabetes, heart disease, and increased risks for breast and prostate cancer. According to Consumer Reports, “the latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods we tested contain some BPA. …We even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled ‘BPA-free’.” (Read the full article here)

Here is the catch: It’s important to know that just because a canned food is organic doesn’t mean it is sold in a BPA-free can. And just because a can is labeled “BPA-Free,” doesn’t mean it has been proven no BPA exists in the can/food.

2. Preservatives and additives are used in canned foods. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydrozyttoluene (BHT) are widely used as preservatives or stabilizers. Yes, they are antioxidants, and add to a food’s shelf life. Still, they pose certain cancer risks. BHA is a possible human carcinogen. BHT may react with other ingested substances, causing the formation of carcinogens. Both BHA and BHT are toxic to the liver and kidneys.

3. Canned foods are processed foods, typically altered from their natural state for convenience and for certain safety reasons. For instance, sodium nitrite is used to preserve color and flavor of meat products. Processed meats carry nitrates and nitrites. They combine with stomach acids and chemicals in foods to form carcinogens. Regular consumption of processed meats is associated with various types of cancer, including lung, colon, esophagus, and liver. Additionally, food companies often use coal tar products (known carcinogens) for coloring and flavoring.

4. Other ingredients (such as salt, sugar/refined sugar, soda) are also found in canned foods. While these products have not been shown to cause cancer directly, they may increase the risk of obesity. Obesity contributes to 20 percent of cancer deaths in women and 14 percent in men. In addition, high intake of salt or refined sugar is also associated with cancer of the breast and upper digestive tract.

Because children are much more susceptible to any toxins, it is especially important to make sure the food you feed them and the containers and bottles you use to feed them are safe.

The bottom line

When it comes to your health, follow this ABC:

Avoid canned food
Best Buy is fresh food
Consider frozen food

What’s your thought about canned foods? If you like this post, please share it.

Photo Credit: by Srinath TV

The Dirt on Household Cleaners: Hazardous or Beneficial?

Are you ready for the Spring Cleaning? What cleaning products do you use to make your home clean and sparkle? Without realizing it, people have put health hazards in their homes while using many popular cleaners. Additionally, they may use spray bottles with these potentially toxic chemicals that go into the air they breathe. With tiny droplets and residue, the risks are substantially increased from asthma to cancer.

What’s hiding in those “cleaning agents”?

Toxic ingredients in household cleaning products contain carcinogens, i.e., cancer-causing chemicals, in addition to endocrine disrupters and neurotoxins. Several carcinogens, classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), are commonly found in household cleaners. Here are some examples:

A carpet cleaner may contain perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen.
A paint stripper may contain methylene chloride, listed as a possible human carcinogen.
Moth balls and moth crystals contain either naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene, listed as a possible human carcinogen.
Laundry detergents may contain trisodium nitrilotriacetate (NTA), listed as a possible human carcinogen.

Other known carcinogens such as benzene, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, and carbon tetrachloride are also present in household cleaning products. (Learn more about their cancer-causing properties in this in-depth article “Eliminate Cancerous Roots in Our Homes”)

The ugly truth is that it often takes years and decades to develop cancer, through continual exposure to hazardous chemicals or even possibly long after chronic exposure. It’s such a sad consequence, given the fact that, with the right knowledge, we can control the exposure and avoid cancer risks discussed here.

What paths do these toxins travel?

1. They can remain on any surface you’ve cleaned.
2. They can enter your body via inhalation, contact, or possible ingestion.
3. For a pregnant woman, these chemicals or toxins can migrate through her own body into that of her baby, where they can damage the developing brain or other organs. As a result, a baby could be born with a defect or illness.
4. They can cycle back into your home. Although you may feel safe after watching the used chemicals disappear down the drain or toilet, it is possible for them to leach back into the tap water systems.

The point is — Even if the amounts are tiny, they can build up over time, contaminating the water we use to drink or cook, shower in, and wash our clothes and dishes. So, make sure what you’re using at home is safe, not just convenient. Think before you pour any chemicals down the drain.

More importantly, take action to protect yourself and your loved ones. Go through your household cleaners, such as bathroom disinfectants, glass cleaners, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, dish detergents, garden pesticides, paints, paint strippers, stain removers, furniture polish, detergents, degreasers, and even flea powders. Check to see if any toxic and cancerous ingredients are present, and safely eliminate them.

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