The populations of countries where the diet includes substantial amounts of smoked foods and meats treated with nitrates and nitrites, used as preservatives, have higher rates of cancer of the stomach and esophagus. Foods in the American diet that are prepared in these ways include hot dogs, bacon, and ham. To be safe, look for brands of uncured, nitrate-free meat products, such as bacon in natural-food stores.
Intake of pesticides may also increase the risk of cancer, although studies have had mixed results. However, in one study, conducted in 1992 at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and published in the Archives of Environmental Health, women with breast cancer had 50 to 60 percent higher concentrations of PCBs, DDT, and DDE in their breast tissue than women who did not have breast cancer. These chemicals can increase estrogenic activity and suppress immune function — another reason to eat organic foods.
For further information about diet and specific forms of cancer, contact these organizations and request a copy of their educational materials:
Cooking meat, poultry, or fish at high temperatures — 480°F and higher — results in the formation of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs). Meats cooked over an open flame on a barbecue may reach 700°F.
Although hot foods and beverages cool some before you consume them, keep in mind that cancer of the mouth and pharynx is promoted by drinking very hot beverages, a common practice in such places as Afghanistan and China, where the incidence of this type of cancer is high.