5 Cancer-Causing Food Ingredients To Avoid

Alexis Bryan
Alexis Bryan12 Dec 2022
Reviewed and Fact Checked ✔️

The number one way to reduce your risk of cancer through diet is to cut down on processed and red meat, as well as alcohol. Not only does processed and red meat contain cancer-causing ingredients, they are a large contributor to excess caloric intake resulting in obesity. Additionally, there are several food additives allowed in the U.S. (but prohibited in other countries) you should avoid to minimize your risk of cancer. 

Having a healthy and balanced diet can prevent cancer by helping you reach or maintain a healthy weight. If you are looking to meet with a primary care doctor to discuss your diet or other improvements to your health, but don’t yet have one, look no further! A membership with Mira includes $25 virtual care appointments to help you get your health on track.

Cancer-Causing Food Ingredients

Cancer-causing foods are labeled carcinogenic by several national and international agencies who research and review evidence on potentially carcinogenic substances. As part of the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)  identifies and groups carcinogenic agents based on their risk to humans, as shown in the table below. 

Classifications of Carcinogens by the IARC

GroupLevel of EvidenceFood Ingredients
Group 1Carcinogenic to humans
  • Processed meat including ham, bacon, and salami
  • Alcoholic beverages
Group 2AProbably carcinogenic to humans
  • Red meat
Group 2BProbably carcinogenic to humans
  • Potassium bromate found in baked goods
  • BHA
  • Lead
Group 3Not classifiable as to its carcinogenicity to humans
  • Sulfur dioxide
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Alexis Bryan

Alexis Bryan MPH, is a recent graduate of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is passionate about increasing access to care to improve health outcomes. Outside of work, she loves to travel, read, and pay too much attention to her plants.

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