Lowering Your Risk of Cancer: You and Your Environment

You may be wondering about factors in our environment that may increase our risk for cancer, like cookware, food packaging, pesticides and hormones used in food. Read on to learn more about what’s in your environment and how it may impact your cancer risk.

Non-stick cookware

Non-stick cookware uses a non-stick coating to help prepare foods with less fat and make for an easier clean up. The chemical that is used to make non-stick cookware is thought to cause cancer based on research done on rats. However, more research is needed to determine if there is a risk for humans. To be most safe, avoid preheating non-stick cookware or using it to cook foods at high temperatures. This includes the stovetop and in the oven.

Plastic packaging


BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical used to make hard, clear plastic materials like food containers. It can also be found in the lining of metal cans, such as canned food products. It is not known if BPA increases the risk of cancer in humans. Health Canada states that BPA found in food packaging is not a health risk, including newborns and infants. If you wish to limit exposure to BPA, consider these tips:

  • Choose glass or other BPA free products.
  • Do not heat liquids in any plastic containers.
  • Look for recycling codes 2, 4 and 5 on the bottom of plastic containers. These are BPA free.
  • Avoid recycling code 7 plastics.

Water bottles

There is no research to show that plastic water bottles allow cancer-causing chemicals to leak into the liquid they contain.

Microwaves and plastic containers

There is some research that shows substances in plastic containers may be released into food when they are microwaved. This may increase cancer risk. To lower your risk:

  • Never heat or store food in plastic containers that were not intended for food.
  • Use only “microwave safe” plastic wrap, containers and bowls in the microwave.


There is no evidence that suggests the low level of pesticide residue found in our food increases the risk of cancer. To reduce pesticide residue that may be present, rinse all vegetables and fruit with tap water for 30 seconds Remember, eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is important to help lower your risk of cancer.

Growth hormones

In Canada, synthetic growth hormones are only approved for use in beef cattle. They are not approved for use in dairy cattle, poultry or pork.  Research shows that there is no link between eating beef given growth hormones and increased cancer risk. If you are concerned about hormones used in beef, you may wish to try organic beef.

Bottom line

Cancer prevention starts with healthy living. Be aware of items that may be harmful to help keep you and your family safe. If you have questions about cancer prevention, call EatRight Ontario and speak to a Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

You may also be interested in: 

Plastic Safety FAQ
Food Safety: Microwaves

Last Update – April 20, 2017

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