You've probably heard the term carcinogen. Very often people say that certain foods contain carcinogens, so you should limit their consumption because it can cause cancer. However, do you know what carcinogens really are?
Carcinogens are not only contained in food, but in fact there are many things around us that contain carcinogens. For more details, see the following explanation.
What is a carcinogen?
Carcinogens are things that can cause cancer, can be in the form of chemicals, viruses, or even drugs and radiation used to treat cancer itself. In essence, things that directly cause cancer can be called carcinogens. In general, cancer is caused by a carcinogen or a combination of the carcinogen itself.
Carcinogens can work in many ways, namely direct damage to DNA in cells, causing abnormalities in normal cells, and another way is to cause cell damage that causes cells to divide faster, which in turn can lead to the development of cancer.
What are the carcinogen examples?
Carcinogens have been classified into 3 groups by The International Agency for Research on Cancer. The classification consists of agents and groups of agents, mixtures, and environmental exposures.
Agent and agent group
- Aflatoxin, naturally produced by certain fungi.
- Arsenic compounds
- Nickel compound
- Solar radiation
- Powder containing asbestiform fiber
- Vinyl chloride, and others.
- Alcoholic drinks
- An analgesic mixture containing phenacetin
- Tobacco products
- Tobacco smoke
- Wood powder, and others.
Expose the environment
- Aluminum production
- Making or repairing shoes and boots
- Coal processing with coal gasification
- Coke production
- Manufacture of furniture
- Formation of iron and steel
- Rubber industry
- Exposure to sulfuric acid in the work environment, and others.
In essence, this carcinogen can be found in chemicals in the environment around you, environmental radiation (such as from sunlight), radiation from medical devices, viruses, drugs, and lifestyle factors.
These carcinogens are not certain to cause cancer in all people exposed. The ability of carcinogens to cause cancer varies between individuals, depending on the amount of exposure, the length of exposure, the health of individuals exposed, and other factors. The vulnerability of each person exposed to carcinogens in causing cancer also depends on heredity. Heredity factors play an important role as a cause of cancer. In many cases, the incidence of cancer is caused by many factors that work together.
Carcinogens in food
Be careful, certain foods that you normally eat may also contain carcinogens. Recently there have been studies showing that processed meat contains carcinogenic compounds, which means it can cause cancer, especially colorectal cancer and stomach cancer.
Processed meat in question is meat that has gone through a process of salting, preservation, fermentation, fumigation, or other processes that aim to improve taste and storage power. Examples of processed meat are bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, and so on.
This is because processed meat has the following ingredients:
- Processing of meat, such as preservation (which adds nitrate or nitrite to meat) or fumigation, can trigger the formation of carcinogens, such as N-nitroso-compound (NOC) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH).
- This is exacerbated by the heme iron content in meat, which can support the production of NOC in meat.
- Cooking meat at high temperatures, such as fried or baked, can also trigger the production of carcinogens, such as heterocyclic amine (HCA) and PAH. HCA is formed when creatine and amino acids in the meat react to heat generated from the cooking process. HCA is one agent that can cause cancer.
Therefore, you should choose red meat that is still fresh and cooked yourself compared to processed meat cooked at the factory. You can also process the red meat by boiling or steaming rather than being fried or burned which produces higher heat. This method can make the meat you eat healthier.
Also, balance your diet by eating vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruit can reduce the level of DNA damage and oxidation from carcinogenic compounds, so that it can reduce your risk of getting cancer.
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