Lung cancer: Signs and symptoms to look out for
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Cancer care has made significant leaps in the past decade, but no cure for the disease has yet been found. While countermeasures against the disease are helping survival rates grow, researchers remain adamant that prevention is key. It is well established that dietary patterns could significantly curb one’s risk of cancer. Certain foods and drinks that contain one harmful substance are shown to increase the risk of the disease.
Cancer is a catchall phrase for a host of diseases characterised by an uncontrolled and rapid proliferation of malignant cells, which can spread to other parts of the body if left unmanaged.
There are a plethora of risk factors for the disease, and dietary habits have recently come into sharp focus.
Certain drinks and foods that contain substances, such as 4-methylimidazole, have been linked to a greater risk of cancer in some studies.
The FDA explains that 4-methylimidazole (4-MEl) is a chemical compound that forms as a byproduct at low levels in some foods and beverages during the normal cooking process.
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The chemical is produced during the cooking of foods containing carbohydrates and amino acids, including the production of flavours and colouring substances.
The substance may also form when coffee beans are roasted and when meats are roasted or grilled.
The chemical can be found in trace amounts in many foods and beverages including baked goods, coffee, bread, molasses, soy sauce, gravies and some beers.
It should be noted, however, that not all foods that have ‘caramel colouring’ on their food label contain 4-MEI, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The health watchdog explains that 4-MEI may form during the manufacturing of certain types of caramel colours (known as Class III and Class IV, caramel colouring.)
It adds: “Class III and Class IV caramel colouring are the most commonly used food colour additive by volume.”
The American website UT Southwestern Medical Centre, explains that traces of 4-MEI can also be found in soda drinks.
The health body states: “Researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have four that 4-Mel, the caramel dye in darker-coloured sodas, is proven to cause or elevate the risk of cancer.
“While manufacturers consider the chemical a byproduct of soda production, the state of California lists 4-MEI as a known carcinogen and actively enforces carcinogen labelling on food products known to contain a colourant.”
Campaigners, however, have previously called for strict limits on levels of 4-MEI in drinks in the UK.
In 2007, the National Toxicology Program issued reports summarising the results of toxicological testing conducted on the 4-MEI in rats and mice.
The two-year studies were inconclusive regarding carcinogenicity, but a two-year mouse study showed an increased incidence of certain lung tumours.
It should be noted that both studies were conducted in rodents at levels of 4-MEI that far exceed the current estimated human exposure to 4-MEI from consumption in food with or without the addition of Class III or Class IV caramel colouring.
In one 2019 study, published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, researchers explained: “In cancer bio-essays, 4-MEI induced lung tumours in mice, but not in rats.”
The team then set out to compare and contrast the metabolism of 4-MEI in rats and mice.
They added: “Overall, the metabolism of 4-MEI appeared similar between rats and mice.”
Although the Site of California added 4-MEI to its list of carcinogens, no studies have shown that it causes cancer in humans.
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