When you think of a cancer carcinogen the first thing that comes to mind is something obvious like cigarettes. And that would be true, but there are also carcinogens lurking in less obvious places that we’re exposed to everyday. Just FYI, some of this will probably bum you out, but the more you know, the better choices you can make.

Microwave Popcorn

First up on the list of hidden carcinogens is microwave popcorn. It’s not the popcorn itself, if you can air pop those kernals then they are fine. It’s the convenient little bags they come in that make microwaving the popcorn possible. The popcorn bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), and that chemical has been linked to infertility in women in addition to increasing the risk of getting a variety of cancers. And let’s not forget about the butter flavoring.

Processed Meat

Sorry sandwich lovers. The process of curing meats not only requires extremely high levels of sodium, but it also takes some nasty chemicals. Nitrates keep the meat from going bad, but they can also cause cancer once they turn into N-nitroso composites in the body.

When meats are smoked they also retain tar from the smoking process, so you end up eating tar. Not great for the body. Tar is of course, one of those horrible ingredients that is added to cigarettes. Besides meats, even smoked foods like nuts can retain tar from the smoking process. Pretty much anything that has been smoked should be suspect. This means that bacon, salami, bologna, sausage, and hot dogs are all high risk.

Potato Chips

You might have thought that the biggest sin of potato chips is just that they’re super high in fat, empty calories, and trans fats, but that’s not it. When potato chips are fried in high heat to get that crispy crunch you love, they actually create a chemical called acrylamide. If you guessed that acrylamide is a carcinogen you would be right, it is even one of the ingredients found in cigarettes. Again, this amounts to a certain degree of addiction. No wonder you can’t put those chips down.

White Flour

Perhaps one of the more surprising offenders is processed white flour. Yeah, you know that it’s horrible for the waistline and that going with whole grains is a better option for many reasons. But it gets worse. Processed flour is grain that is stripped of most of its good stuff, and then to whiten it the grain is actually bleached with chlorine gas. In small amounts chlorine gas is dangerous to inhale and in large amounts it can actually kill. Additionally, cancerous tumors actually feed off of sugar in the bloodstream, so when you eat foods made with white processed flour you create a perfect growing ground for cancer. Don’t do that!


Are you going to change your eating habits to avoid these foods? Let us know!

Additional images: Pixabay




Kate Ferguson
Kate Ferguson
Kate Ferguson is a Los Angeles local and freelance writer for a variety of blog and magazine genres. When she's not writing, the UC Davis graduate is focused on pursuits of the entertainment industry, spin class, and hot sauce. Follow her for updates (and the occasional joke) on Twitter @KateFerg