Why everything gives you cancer

A couple of weeks ago the news broke that eating burnt toast can increase your chances of developing cancer. This comes after learning last year that processed meats such as bacon, pork and sausages should be avoided for the same reason. So, what’s going on?

The link between burnt foods like toast, and overly crisp roast potatoes is due to a chemical that is produced when starchy foods are burnt, or cooked at high temperatures for a long time. This chemical, acrylamide, has been studied by scientists for many years and how exposure to it can cause damage to the DNA in cells, potentially causing cancer. Acrylamide has been classed as a class 2A carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer for a very long time.

A study that was published in 2012 looked at the levels of acrylamide in frozen chips as the cooking time increased. They were able to show that the longer the chips were cooked, the higher the acrylamide content was. When this was combined with a recent study that looked at the DNA damage response in rats who were given daily acrylamide, the Food Standards Agency decided to release their information that regularly eating burnt toast and crispy roasties has the potential to cause cancer.

Despite this, there is no solid evidence yet that increased levels of acrylamide will cause cancer, and you should immediately stop eating the burnt bits on food. Before we can say there is a direct link, more studies need to be done to establish ‘safe’ levels of exposure. It’s also worth noting that studies in humans have so far not shown a clear, consistent link between levels of acrylamide in the diet and increasing the risk of cancer.

It’s often the case that preliminary studies in cells or animal models find a link between certain chemicals and increases in DNA damage, or rates of mutations in the cells studied. Until these things are shown in studies involving humans, it can end up not amounting to anything. When these chemicals are linked to those found in foods, it can be even more worrying, especially when they can be found even in fruit. Almost all of the time, these chemicals are present in such tiny amounts that youd have to eat hundreds and thousands of the food in a very short space of time for it have any huge impact. Even water can kill you if you drink too much of it.

In the meantime, it’s recommended that everybody follow a healthy diet by eating more fruit and veg, drinking more water and exercising more. While it’s always good to consider what the foods we eat may be doing to our bodies, eating the ‘bad’ foods in moderation should be fine. If you’re worried about your cancer risk, cut down on the things that we KNOW will increase your risk of developing cancers, like smoking and drinking.

On a lighter note, heres a (NSFW) review of everything the Daily Mail has claimed will cause you cancer…it’s worth noting that they have also claimed half of them will cure you from cancer too. Everything with a pinch of salt. Enjoy!


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