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Cancer Invest. 2007 Apr-May;25(3):189-96.

Carcinogenic food contaminants.

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  • 1Nutritional Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Rockville, Maryland 20852, USA.


A large number of scientific studies and reviews have addressed the potential for dietary components to influence the risk of developing cancer. One topic of particular interest has been the impact of food contaminants. Two complementary programs, among others, have reviewed and synthesized information on the carcinogenic potential of food contaminants and judged the degree of evidence linking different food contaminants to the risk of cancer in humans. These programs, the International Agency for Research on Cancer's IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans and the US National Toxicology Program's Report of Carcinogens have reviewed hundreds of chemicals, mixtures, and natural products and then graded the cancer risk posed to humans. Contaminants with the highest level of evidence include aflatoxin, alcoholic beverages, 2,3,7,8-tetracholordibenzo-p-dioxin. Agents with a moderate level of evidence include acetaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some nitrosamines, and yerba mate. Agents with a low level of evidence include bracken fern, fumonsin B(1), ochratoxin, and others. This review presents a summary of the evidence for the carcinogenicity of these and other agents and the ranks provided by two important assessment programs.

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