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Can cooking with Gas increase your risk of developing lung cancer?

Posted Feb 18 2010 11:38am

That tantalizing smell while you’re frying your food just might give you cancer along with an appetite!

The fumes that result from frying food at high temperatures are known to cause changes in DNA  and may be carcinogenic. Professional chefs are particularly at  risk. Lung cancer rates in China, for example are high among chefs, and have been linked to stir-frying food at high temperatures. Past research has shown that cancer levels are higher among chefs who did not use extractors fans in their kitchens than among those who did. As well as being linked with lung cancer, cooking fumes have also been linked with  cervical  and bladder cancer. However, research in Taiwan indicated how, depending on culture and lifestyle, it is not just professional cooks who are at risk. In Taiwan there are very low smoking rates among the female population, but  a very high incidence of lung cancer. This is thought to be because of the amount of time women spend cooking, many on a daily basis. There was an increased risk for women who waited  until the oil was really hot before starting to cook.

Now a new study from Norway has compared the risks  between cooking with gas and electricity, by frying 17 steaks for 15 minutes each, using margarine or soya oil. The results show that cooking with gas produced a higher level of the cancer causing cooking fumes. There were higher levels of toxic and carcinogenic substances, as well as higher levels of ultrafine particles which are able to penetrate deeper into the lungs. This is thought  to be because of the higher temperatures of the gas flame, although it is also possible that it is a result not just of the cooking process, but of the flame itself. The new study was published in the journal ‘Occupational and Environmental Medicine’. One of the authors of the study explained  in the journal that while some substances are below the accepted  occupational safety levels, other components have no identified safety levels, and appear to be increased where the cooking method used is gas.  As a result she says exposure to cooking fumes should be reduced as much as possible.

Following on from the research the public health message is the same as previously; to keep kitchens well ventilated and gas appliances well maintained.

It seems as if a certain amount of risk is unavoidable if we want to continue to eat cooked food. Perhaps the time has finally come to give serious consideration to the raw food diet!

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