Is there a cancer risk in eating foods heated in plastic containers?

5:41 PM, Sep 6, 2011   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis (KSDK) - You may be cooking at home more if you're trying to eat healthier foods.

A viewer wants to know if there's a cancer risk in eating foods that have been heated in plastic containers in the microwave.

"The question of microwaving food in plastic is one of the unresolved issues," said Dr. Graham Colditz, Niess-Gain, Professor in the School of Medicine at Washington University, Chief of the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery, and Associate Director of Prevention Control at Siteman Cancer Center.

Even a recent national report on plastics and cancer left the question unanswered. And while you might be familiar with BPA found in many plastics, that's just one of many under scrutiny.

"There's a whole class of chemicals in plastic that can mimic the role of hormones and other agents in the body and potentially increase the risk of cancer," said Dr. Colditz.

But the link to humans is still being studied, and is far from definitive.

"Therefore the prudent thing to do right now is to avoid the exposure rather than take the risk and find out in the future those studies confirm a direct link to cancer," said Dr. Colditz.

As an alternative until we know more, Dr. Colditz recommends using glass containers for re-heating and storing food.

"This is not the type of exposure that's at the level of smoking and lung cancer," said Dr. Colditz. "It's at a very low level risk but with all of these carcinogens in the environment, the less exposure we have the better for everyone."

Our 8 Ways reports are in partnership with the Siteman Cancer Center. Send us your questions about cancer prevention.

Go to the home page, click on the features tab and go to Siteman 8 Ways in the drop down menu.

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