Food additives cause cancer

Probably not. In determining which part of a diet is associated with cancer, scientists have attempted to relate it to particular dietary patterns or the consumption of particular foods or food components. There is no doubt that some food components are associated with cancer while others appear to protect us against certain cancers in some way (for example, see LARGE DOSES VITAMIN A CAN CURE CANCER). Laboratory studies have shown that certain food components cause cancer experimental animals and there are sound scientific reasons to believe that these substances also have the potential to cause cancer in humans. However, because the time taken for many cancers to develop in humans following exposure to low levels of cancer-causing substances is usually quite long, perhaps five to forty years, it is often difficult to identify the exact cause. In experimental studies, animals are exposed to much higher amounts than humans are likely to come into contact with through food, air, or in the workplace. Often evidence showing a relationship between a particular substance and cancer in humans is only obtained when people are accidentally exposed to high amounts in the course of their work.

We cannot assume that only high amounts will cause cancer. As the level of exposure decreases, the risk proportionately decreases but probably does not completely disappear until exposure is zero. The frequency of cancer occurrence at low exposure levels may be so very, very low, that the substance is virtually safe. Probably the most controversial food additives associated with cancer in animal studies are the artificial sweetener saccharin (see ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS CAUSE CANCER) and nitrites used in cured and pickled meats (see BACON CAN CAUSE CANCER). However, there is no solid evidence that at the present level of use these or any currently permitted food additives actually cause cancer in humans.