Do hot dogs cause cancer? Sounds like a silly question, right? But you may be surprised to find out that nitrites added as a preservative to processed meats (those meats usually found in the lunch meat aisle at your grocery store) are linked to an increased risk of leukemia in children.
According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, here’s why:
Q. How could hot dogs cause cancer?
A. Hot dogs contain nitrites which are used as preservatives, primarily to combat botulism. During the cooking process, nitrites combine with amines naturally present in meat to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. It is also suspected that nitrites can combine with amines in the human stomach to form N-nitroso compounds. These compounds are known carcinogens and have been associated with cancer of the oral cavity, urinary bladder, esophagus, stomach and brain.
Q. Some vegetables contain nitrites, do they cause cancer too?
A. It is true that nitrites are commonly found in many green vegetables, especially spinach, celery and green lettuce. However, the consumption of vegetables appears to be effective in reducing the risk of cancer. How is this possible? The explanation lies in the formation of N-nitroso compounds from nitrites and amines. Nitrite containing vegetables also have Vitamin C and D, which serve to inhibit the formation of N-nitroso compounds. Consequently, vegetables are quite safe and healthy, and serve to reduce your cancer risk.
Q. Do other food products contain nitrites?
A. Yes, all cured meats contain nitrites. These include bacon and fish.
According to a study referenced on the Cancer Prevention Coalition’s website, children who eat 12 or more hot dogs a month are nine times more likely to be diagnosed with leukemia. So how can you protect yourself and your family from added nitrites? As often as possible, choose fresh, uncured meats for your family and limit processed foods. Read labels (avoid products with sodium nitrite) and choose products with no added nitrites like these:
A few simple changes can lower your family’s cancer risk. Please share your small changes for a healthier lifestyle in our comments section below!