Out of sight, out of mind is a saying many people live by but, when it comes to your food, this mindset could be sacrificing your health. While big-name billboard carcinogens such as smoking cigarettes and asbestos make all the headlines, millions of people consume potentially harmful toxic adulterants every single day.
That red delicious apple you had at breakfast, the fast food cheat meal you had for lunch, the corn you have planned for dinner… they’re all likely filled with adulterants including chemical preservatives or residue from pesticides.
However, many of you who are part of The Hearty Soul community steer clear of fast food chains and do everything in your power to consciously buy whole, organic foods. Even still, we can underestimate the impact these invisible ingredients can have on our bodies. That’s why we’ve explored what cancer and natural health experts have to say on the matter.
How Indirect Pesticide Residue Exposure Can Raise Your Cancer Risk
According to the United States’ National Cancer Institute, doctors will diagnose ~1,735,350 people with cancer and 609,640 will die from the disease. It’s difficult to say how many of these diagnoses and deaths are linked to, or even caused by, carcinogens. But, Americans are fed up and this news is not new.
“The American people — even before they are born — are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures,” wrote The President’s Cancer Panel in a 2009 report. “The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”
You won’t see it happen, but chemicals can affect your body in a number of ways that increase your risk of cancer. The Pesticide Action Network of North America outlines the most common ones:
- Hormone disruption
- DNA damage
- Tissue inflammation
- Genes turning on or off
For obvious reasons, certain groups of people have more reason to worry than others. For example, individuals (and their families) who work in rural areas or on farms are more directly exposed to pesticides such as glyphosate or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). However, published research from 2015 suggests your location might do little to minimize your risk.
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A study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism aimed to confirm whether or not prenatal exposure to DDT was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. The research project began in the 1960s, followed ~15,000 mothers in San Francisco’s Bay Area, and involved three generations of women. Out of those mothers, researchers measured DDT levels in 118 daughters who, by 52-years-old, had breast cancer.
“After accounting for known risk factors, including family history and age, the women with the highest DDT exposures had daughters who were 3.7 times more likely to have been diagnosed with breast cancer as the women with lower exposures,” as reported by National Geographic.
Although DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, the findings suggest the chemical may still affect generations of women despite its present-day absence.
Experts: This Is Why You Should Stop Eating Preservative-Filled Foods
If you want to be generous, one could argue that preservatives are a good idea… in theory. Making foods last longer is not the worst idea, except for the fact that ingredients such as sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite have been classified as “probably carcinogenic” by the International Agency for the Research of Cancer.
Preservatives including the ones listed above, which producers use to add color and flavor to processed foods, have been linked to different types of cancer.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute analyzed 190,545 individuals over the course of seven years. Researchers found that those who consumed more red and processed meats had a 67 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate less.
The WHO also put together 22 oncologists and other experts from 10 countries to determine whether or not preservative-filled processed meat actually causes cancer. After reviewing a whopping 800 relevant studies, they concluded that “each 50-gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.”
If it’s not DDT, it will be something else…
In the same President’s Cancer Panel, cancer survivor and biologist Sandra Steingraber wrote:
“We have sprayed pesticides… throughout our shared environment. They are now in amniotic fluid. They’re in our blood. They’re in our urine. They’re in our exhaled breath. They are in mothers’ milk… What is the burden of cancer that we can attribute to this use of poisons in our agricultural system? … We won’t really know the answer until we do the other experiment — which is to take the poisons out of our food chain, embrace a different kind of agriculture, and see what happens.”
She has a point, don’t you think?
So, what should you do moving forward? In addition to limiting or avoiding foods such as hot dogs and pre-packaged bacon, burgers and sausages, you should also try to buy locally grown foods or growing your own! Getting your organic food closer to home minimizes time from farm to table which means no additives or preservatives, no toxic pesticides, and a healthier life.
 Cancer Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics
 Reuben, S. H. (n.d.). REDUCING ENVIRONMENTAL CANCER RISK What We Can Do Now [PDF]. National Cancer Institute. Retrieved from https://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/pcp08-09rpt/PCP_Report_08-09_508.pdf
 Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.panna.org/human-health-harms/cancer
 Cohn, B. A., Merrill, M. L., Krigbaum, N. Y., Yeh, G., Park, J., Zimmermann, L., & Cirillo, P. M. (2015, August). DDT Exposure in Utero and Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524999/
 Konkel, L. (2015, June 16). DDT Linked to Fourfold Increase in Breast Cancer Risk. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/15616-breast-cancer-ddt-pesticide-environment/
 Do food preservatives cause cancer? (2018, February 01). Retrieved from https://www.cancercouncil.com.au/86049/cancer-information/general-information-cancer-information/cancer-questions-myths/food-and-drink/food-preservatives-do-not-cause-cancer/
 Nöthlings, U., Wilkens, L. R., Murphy, S. P., Hankin, J. H., Henderson, B. E., & Kolonel, L. N. (2005, October 05). Meat and fat intake as risk factors for pancreatic cancer: The multiethnic cohort study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16204695
 International Agency for Research on Cancer. (n.d.). IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat [PDF]. World Health Organization. Retrieved from https://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2015/pdfs/pr240_E.pdf
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