Processed meats are up there with smoking and asbestos when it comes to cancer risk, according to the World Health Organization. On their no-no list are sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and ham, due to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Eating just 50 grams of processed meat each day (that’s around two slices of ham) can increase the risk of colon cancer by 18 percent, according to the report. The problem comes not just from the meat itself but from the main methods of processing it, which include smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives. When cooking certain meats, sodium nitrites combine with natural amines in the meat to form cancer-causing N-nitroso compounds. “I avoid smoked foods due to nitrates,” says Ioana Bonta, MD, a medical oncologist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Newnan, Georgia. In spite of similar preparation, smoked fish is not as bad as smoked meats, according to Cary Presant, MD, an internist, hematologist, and an oncologist in Los Angeles and an assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research at City of Hope Cancer Center in West Covina, California. Here are some more ways to decrease your risk of colon cancer.
“Microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial butter, and the fumes from it contain the toxic compound diacytel that is associated with lung cancers,” says professor Eitan Yefenof, PhD, chairman of the Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Also known as a “butter bomb,” diacytel gives popcorn that distinctive buttery flavor and aroma. There’s more: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in microwave popcorn bag linings as “likely” carcinogenic. Here are some other preventable lung cancer risk factors (besides smoking).