At the top of the cancer-causing foods list is processed meats, which the World Health Organization has put in the same category as smoking and asbestos when it comes to cancer risk. On WHO’s no-no list are sausage, bacon, hot dogs, and ham because of 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 certain meats are cooked, 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. Despite similar preparation, smoked fish is not as bad as smoked meats, according to Cary Presant, MD, an internist, hematologist, and oncologist in Los Angeles and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research at City of Hope Cancer Center in West Covina, California.
“Microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial butter, and the fumes from it contain the toxic compound diacetyl that is associated with lung cancers,” says 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,” diacetyl gives popcorn that distinctive buttery flavor and aroma. There’s more: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the linings of microwave-popcorn bags as “likely” carcinogenic. Check out these 6 tips for preventing lung cancer .