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Carcinogens prove to be a meaty issue

By Denebola
Published: November 2007
By Antoine Guillaume
Cancer causes more than 500,000 deaths in the United States each year.
First and second hand smoking, as well as pollution, are leading
causes of cancer. But researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe that most
carcinogens are food-based with only about five percent of deaths
coming from environmental factors.
Carcinogens are found in many of the foods Americans eat today. Of
particular concerns are various types of meat: processed meats such as
hot dogs, over-cooked and under-cooked meat, and meat with a high fat
content all affect the chances of getting cancer.
Meat that is cooked from 140 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit is generally
thought to be non-cancer causing. Over-cooked meat, on the other hand,
increases the risk of certain types of cancer because heterocyclic
amines (HCA’s) form during the cooking process, which have been shown
to cause cancer. According to Science News Magazine, “people who
regularly [eat] their beef medium-well or well-done faced more than
three times the stomach cancer risk of those who ate their meat rare
or medium-rare.” Similarly, grilling is a passion that many enjoy
because it is supposedly healthier than other cooking methods. While
grilling avoids the use of excessive amounts of butter or fat, it
creates the same cancer-causing HCA’s involved in over-cooking meat.
Many processed meats such as hot dogs are also known to cause cancer,
even when not grilling them. Most processed meats have nitrites, to
preserve the meat, and the consumption of these nitrites increases the
risk of cancer. The Cancer Prevention Coalition found that children
who ate more than nine hotdogs per month were 12 times more likely to
get childhood leukemia than children who didn’t. The study also found
a hereditary link between children who developed childhood leukemia
and their father’s hot dog consumption.
Another potentially dangerous aspect of meat is its fat content, which
has been shown to lead to an increased risk of various types of
cancers such as breast and colon cancer. Countries that have a higher
consumption of fat, especially animal fat from meat or dairy products,
tend to have a higher incidence of cancers.
According to the charitable organization, The Cancer Project, “In the
late 1940′s when breast cancer was rather rare in Japan less than 10
percent of the calories in the Japanese diet came from fat.”
It is believed that consumption of animal fat leads to increased level
of estrogen, which encourages the growth of cancer cells. Frequent
consumption of meat, particularly red meat, is also associated with an
increased risk of colon cancer. A 2003 Harvard found that people who
consume beef, pork, and lamb are three times more likely to develop
colon cancer than people who avoid those products.
In the light of this news, vegetarianism appears to offer many
potential health benefits. It is a way of life that many people have
accepted for their own good.
The Cancer Project has found that “vegetarians have higher blood
levels of beta-carotene. They consume more vitamin C, beta-carotene,
indoles, and fiber than meat-eaters. Vegetarians also have stronger
immune systems. Also, vegetarians tend to eat more soy products than
meat-eaters. Soybeans contain many substances that are
anti-carcinogens, including lignans and phytoestrogens.”
It is important to note, though, that while vegetarians may have a
lower cancer risk and a healthier lifestyle than meat-eaters, cutting
back on these foods doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be cancer
free. Life style choices can help manage the risks of cancer and other
life-threatening illnesses but cannot completely eliminate them.

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