Research Shows Food Production Methods May Increase Risk for Cancer
A compilation of animal data, cell culture, and epidemiological studies conclude that food production methods correlate with an increased risk for cancer. The National Cancer Institute has conducted numerous studies on the link between increased risk for cancer and food production methods in addition to environmental factors. The Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors at Cornell University has researched the impact of environmental factors including food preparation and the risk for breast cancer.
Food Packaging: The packaging that food is wrapped in may be harmful to human health and linked to increased cancer risks. Research has shown that Biphenol A (BPA) is linked to breast cancer. Furthermore, BPA may interfere with chemotherapy treatment. BPA is often found in the lining of food cans and plastic food containers. Phthalates are connected to early puberty in girls and believed to be a risk factor for breast cancer. The phthalates are considered an endocrine disruptor and act as a weak estrogen in cell cultures. Many food containers are made with phthalates. Styrofoam food trays and coffee cups are believed to have carcinogenic effects on humans.
Hormones and Antibiotics: Hormones are given to cattle to increase growth. The European Union banned the use of all hormone growth promoters in 1988. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States allows what the administration determines to be acceptable daily intakes of the growth-promoting hormones. Prepubertal children and fetuses are the most susceptible to anabolic sex hormones. Poultry, cattle, and other animals are given antibiotics to ward off disease. These animals develop antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Humans consume meat products and the bacteria are transferred to the body.
Pesticides: A project was undertaken by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Protection Agency, known as the Agricultural Health Study. The study assessed the roles of agricultural exposure with the increase in cancer. Findings from the study report that leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, soft tissue sarcoma, brain, lip, prostate, skin and stomach cancers may run higher in farmers that come in daily contact with pesticides. Alcohol consumption, diet, exercise and family history all played a role in addition to the pesticides. The weed killer, imazethapyr, is believed to have a direct correlation with bladder and colon cancer. The herbicide is often used with alfalfa, dried beans, and soybean crops.
*Photo courtesy of Spreading Pesticide by IFPRI Images at Flickr’s Creative Commons.