Coffee, pickled veggies also 'possibly' cause cancer
June 2nd, 2011
12:37 PM ET

Coffee, pickled veggies also 'possibly' cause cancer

As you continue to weigh the risks and benefits of using your cell phone, in light of the recent World Health Organization announcement that the phones may lead to cancer, consider how scared you are of pickled vegetables, gasoline and magenta dyes.

These are just some of the substances also lumped in the same group of "possible carcinogens," formally known as "group 2B carcinogens" on the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer's list of known, likely and maybe-likely suspects.

In fact, coffee is in the same 2B category as cell phones because of evidence that drinking coffee could be associated with cancer of the large bowel. On the other hand, coffee was also recently linked to a lowered risk of fatal prostate cancer, so go figure.

And pickled vegetables, in case you were wondering, have been thought to increase the risk of gastric cancer, possibly. A meta-analysis of studies on Japanese and Korean populations, in which researchers looked at a bunch of studies that had been done in the past, found this association. Study authors concluded that a high intake of fresh vegetables, not pickled, is important for lowering the chances of getting gastric cancer. But, like studies on cell phones, this is based on observational data - information gathered about people's past behaviors, which were not in a controlled scientific setting.

By comparison, tobacco - both smokeless and smoked, as well as second-hand smoke - is in group 1, which means it's considered cancer-causing without question. This group also includes ultraviolet radiation types A, B, and C, which comes from the sun - the reason you want to wear sunscreen and protective eye-ware when you go outside this summer. The WHO is clearly not as sure about the harmfulness of cell phones as it is for these common carcinogens.

The next group down, classified as 2A, are "probable" carcinogens, which include a variety of activities such as manufacturing art glass and art containers, manufacturing carbon electrodes, and exposure at work from being a hairdresser or barber. It also includes indoor emissions from combustion of wood and other biomass fuel, and shift work that disrupts circadian rhythm.

This is all to say that it would be quite premature to say that cell phones are "the new tobacco," since the evidence for cell phones causing cancer isn't nearly as strong as it is for cigarette smoking leading to the disease. In fact, according to these classifications, we can merely say that the cell phone is perhaps "the new pickled vegetable." Hm, that doesn't sound as foreboding.

Here is the complete list of substances, exposures and activities that the WHO has classified as known, probable and possible carcinogens.

And here are tips for minimizing your radiation exposure from cell phones.

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soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. TruthHurts

    I heard reading articles that tell you what causes cancer...actually might give you cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ASU_Gal

      Amazing, I heard the same thing....

      Funny... 😉

      June 2, 2011 at 15:28 | Report abuse |
    • laur

      ha ha that's what my husband says every time I tell him something I read. He is always curious who these "experts" are.....
      these articles are going to cause cancer, people will worry and then weaken their immune system, leading to more disease.

      June 2, 2011 at 18:54 | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Most of these studies are paid for by someone with a financial interest in the 'cure' or an alternative product.

      June 2, 2011 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Stop the speculating. This is ridiculous. I think walking may be cancerous, too.

      June 2, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      My post was not meant to be in reply to this. Whoops.

      June 2, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      I just recently read 'ON CNN' that 3-4 cups of coffee can PREVENT cancer!!! God knows what causes cancer! When your time comes...it comes! Enjoy every second, because it may be your last!

      June 2, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
    • CMD1030

      LOL! And I agree with "Dan".... hey, the phone companies want us all to go back to using land lines. 🙂

      June 2, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    TOO FUNNY...not three weeks ago there was an article telling us how drinking coffee was healthy...anit oxidants etc.

    Please make up your minds...will it kill me or not? Is it ok to have a smoke with my coffee?

    June 2, 2011 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Loren

      What's even funnier is that people commented on that story and said that in a week CNN would put up a reason why coffee is bad for you. Looks like they were right lol. Hilarious.

      June 2, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse |
    • Jocelyn Stamat

      This article got it 100% wrong. Look at the chart that the article provides a link for. It says coffee shows an INVERSE relationship to cancer of the large bowel. INVERSE means: more coffee, less cancer and vice versa. Duh.

      June 2, 2011 at 18:39 | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      They'll once again praise the virtues of coffee drinkers before the year is over. So drink to your health! PS: almost everything is okay in moderation. Don't get stupid though...cigarettes, LSD, cocaine, etc not included!

      June 2, 2011 at 21:55 | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    I'm just speculating, but this seems like a cell phone attempt to dis-credit the ranking. However, when you really think about it. I mean REALLY think. I think the ranking the WHO gave cell phones is low to begin with. Take this article for example. Drinking coffee, eating veggies, touching gasoline, yeah makes sense, I could see these being a 2B rank of possibly being items that might cause cancer. So then conside cell phones. And for that matter all wireless items. We sit in our bedrooms, our houses, or work places and are hit in the head all day long by wireless radio waves. And these come from not just a single item like just a cell phone. We have wireless internet, wireless cell phones, wireless house phones, wireless keyboard, wireless mouse, maybe wireless headphones. And all these wireless signals are hitting us in the head all day long! And then the WHO ranks them 2B similar to 1 coffee a day. I'm sure you see it now and are saying the same thing "You have to be kidding me!"

    Maybe one single wireless device used spuratically throughout the day MAYBE could be rated 2B. But not all the wireless devices we use all day long every single day. I think the rating should be much higher. And I believe unfortunately we will not find this information out until it's too late, b/c in this country money is more important then safe products and lets face it wireless business is a HUGE money maker.

    I write this using my wireless keyboard with a wireless mouse, on my laptop using my wireless internet, with my Iphone sitting on the table next to me. So yeah, i'm just as screwed as you are.

    June 2, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marcus

      And the point is, as severl oncologists I saw interviewed say, is rates for this particular type of brain cancer have remained steady, despite the fact that Americans are bombarded with low-dose radiation every day, and cell use has skyrocked - although minutes used per month have declined with the rise of texting.

      I may change by opinion in 5 years, but I am not worried - and I am a cancer survivor.

      June 2, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
    • ColoradoPoster

      Sorry Steve, but your comment is nothing but specious speculation. Why don't you leave it to the scientists and health experts to discern the effects of wireless?

      June 2, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
    • LP

      Yeah, Steve, you shouldn't be thinking. Trust that your thinking is done for you by someone else. Great plan there, ColoradoPoster.

      June 2, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
  4. Harry

    Looks like the cell phone industry owns a part of cnn too.
    My thinking on this is that all medical expenses related to anything that can be proven to be a carcinogenic that also has a tax associated with it, such as cigarettes, booze or cell phones, should be fully covered by the government. In fact,families of smokers, drinkers and cell phone users should automatically be given a 1 million dollar government life insurance policy payout when the user dies. It only makes sense.

    June 2, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      I seriously hope you're joking.

      June 2, 2011 at 23:25 | Report abuse |
  5. Steve

    Harry – That makes no sense. They choose to smoke KNOWING the risks. The consumer has the right to know the risks associated with the product and then make the decision do I want to buy this product or not.

    June 2, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Harley Creel

    The emperor has no clothes?

    June 2, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mojo

      Probably got brain cancer from his cellphone and that's why he doesn't realize he's naked.

      June 2, 2011 at 22:55 | Report abuse |
  7. meleliko

    Is anyone else as frustrated as I am at all the voodoo science lately? Is there any wonder we ignore these idiots? Perhaps if they took the time to really analyze results rather than constantly guessing and changing their minds, (in this case in a week), we might actually heed them. With this latest fiasco, I'm truly beginning to think all this amounts to is a scare tactic to get more research money and media attention and much less about true science.

    June 2, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. fritz

    News flash! Being alive causes cancer! However, death has been discovered to be the most effective cure for the disease.

    June 2, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jay

    i dont get it..is this supposed to mock the report on cell phones? was this article written by AT&T?
    its an absurd comparison.

    June 2, 2011 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. opinions

    medical science is still so behind in finding causes of cancer. Still theories no proof

    June 2, 2011 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ser

    this will put a damper on my love of pickled turnips and love from shwarma.....NOT...whatever...pickled or not, cancer or not, at least you would get people to stat eating veggies

    June 2, 2011 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. blv

    Hey folks, we're all going to die sooner or later. EVERYTHING causes cancer, heart disease, etc. People live t 100+ by eating eggs and bacon everyday with a fifth of Jack Daniels. Some exercise for an hour a day, eat fresh organic veggies and die at 40. Just LIVE your life and know it's short. Coffee, cell phones, whatever... something WILL kill you and probably not what you expect, so be good and live well.

    June 2, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lar

      I agree with blv, go live your life, eat the eggs, eat the bacon, smoke if you want..blah blah blah. moderation is key...I think Yoga is a wonderful thing though!!!!!!....Il meet you later for that Jack Daniels 🙂

      June 2, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
  13. PureLife

    Oh no! But my favorite passtime is to sit by my fireplace chatting on my cellphone while drinking a cup of coffee and dunking a pickle in it! I'm a gonner.

    June 2, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      I like juggling pickled turnips while someone tapes phones to my head.

      June 2, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse |
  14. zoundsman

    Kim Chee gas build up should not be held in. Go to an appropriate area to release. Smoking area-okay (they won't notice).

    June 2, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. zoundsman

    I was on my cell having a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, after a Kim Chee sandwich and some fool called 9-11
    about a suicide in progress.

    June 2, 2011 at 15:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Mr. Winston

    Great. Now what will I drink while I'm having a smoke?

    June 2, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rachael

    Just shows you how alarmist these warnings are and how silly people are for worrying about this stuff. I will keep using my cell phone, drinking coffee and eating pickles. Life kills everyone. Your likelihood of dying in 100%. It's best to enjoy life while you can and stop worrying about things that "might" harm you. Driving a car to the grocery store is far more dangerous than using a cell phone (unless you are driving and using a cell phone), and I don't think people are going to stop driving soon. I actually think the WHO is irresponsible for issue warnings based on observational studies which are easily manipulated and often innaccurate. WHO should spend its resources preventing known and confirmed threats.

    June 2, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Stephen

    I would be very skeptical of anyone who claims that low to modest coffee intake is harmful.

    June 2, 2011 at 16:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. dave

    According to the complete WHO list, coffee has an *inverse* relationship to cancer of the large bowel, so it might actually help prevent it, not cause it, right?

    It looks to me like coffee made the rating because due to a possible link with cancer of the urinary bladder.

    June 2, 2011 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Ituri

    This just in, BREATHING causes cancer! Everybody stop now!!!

    June 2, 2011 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. HRPufnstuf


    June 2, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. HRPufnstuf


    And, it may not.

    June 2, 2011 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. MJB

    Just heard a few months ago that coffee was good for the heart. Good grief people just do everything in some sort of
    moderation and live.

    June 2, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. SueS

    I'm officially disregarding this sort of thing until they can make up their minds. The public has whiplash from the all the flip-flopping declarations of what's harmful. If you just practice moderation in all things, you will be fine.

    June 2, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Jim970

    Given the right "scientific" study, anything can be "proven" to cause cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 18:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. voltore

    Did some one get paid by the cell phone industry to write this article?

    June 2, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      No, it was just someone who's not a complete idiot.

      June 2, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
  27. laur

    I like what Jim970 said, anything can practically be proven to cause cancer. First you hear coffee is good, then bad, butter better than margarine, etc....now skim milk is bad, better to drink whole milk. .....Oh but if you have heart disease in your family that might be bad. All these studies give me anxiety, I just try to eat everything in moderation, as I know if I load up on one particular thing, 10 years from now I'm going to here "oops, that might cause cancer". ughhh I still maintain genetics play a huge role in how long someone lives. Enjoy life and don't listen to everything you read.

    June 2, 2011 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. WhoDoneIt

    Got news for ya. Breathing causes cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. El Man

    I've heard also that too much masturbati0n make you dumb...

    June 2, 2011 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda

      Near exact what I was thinking when I saw this post...by virtue of being BORN and being ALIVE we are at risk for cancer and whatever else is out there. I hate slow news days!

      June 2, 2011 at 21:43 | Report abuse |
  30. moam

    The sad fact of the matter is this: in this country health care is a nothing more than big business at it's filthiest. One day it's published that coffee can help decrease the likelihood of contracting fatal prostate cancer, so coffee sales go thru the roof. Not long following that, you read coffee can cause cancer. And it's the same for eggs, butter, cell phones, juices, sugar, gluten, and on and on. There is not end to it because it is all designed to make huge profits for the health care industry and other big businesses. In addition to that, there is seemingly a new drug to treat some ailment on the market every few months. Isn't it curious though that the drugs presented for public use seem only to control or mask symptoms so that you can live with the ailment. That way you must continue visiting the doctor and continue buying the drugs. None of these so called Dr.'s are trying to cure you...none of them or the drug companies. You know why? Because there isn't any money in the CURE. The money is in keeping people sick or just marginally better, just we they have to keep on spending our money to feel a little better. Health care and insurance are two of the biggest scams in America. And, unfortunately, there isn't much the average person can do about it except work hard to never get ill.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jack

    Ok. Got it. This week, coffee is bad for you. Last week it was good for you and the week before that it was bad for you again. It changes every week! And to think, there are people who place their entire faith in science! And they think Christians are crazy?????

    June 2, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • daniel

      who said it was science behind all of this?

      June 2, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      @daniel – How do you think these studies are done? By cartoons?

      June 2, 2011 at 21:29 | Report abuse |
  32. daniel

    I don't give a sh!# – I need my morning coffee!
    We all die someday – so what?

    June 2, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. ana

    Probably is not coffee or pickles that cause cancer but the chemicals in them.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. iwatchu

    lmao....so does looking someone in the eye.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Zerk

    I'm sick of the press always trying to instill fear into their readers. Oh yea... and trolling forums and comment boards causes cancer too.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Texas Web

    So, what happened to that news, drinking a cup of coffee a day is good for you...

    June 2, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. John Drake

    Coffee – at least the junk most people drink – is one of the most heavily pesticide sprayed crops. And decaf coffee – if not using a Swiss water process of decaffeination – has the caffeine removed by a chemical process using toluene that extracts the caffeine and supposedly removes the carcinogin solvent. Supposedly. I asked a chemical researcher at a Petersburg, Virginia, plant owned by BIChemicals about the process. He allowed that "trace" amounts of the toluene remain. One man's trace is another man's cancer. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put two and two together. Stick to Fair Trade, organic, coffee, that isn't sprayed with pesticides nor treated with solvents – and enjoy. Avoid Starbucks and the like.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. unowhoitsme

    Stop eating and drinking and talking on your cell phone. You'll die of thirst or hunger, but you won't die of cancer!

    June 2, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Dan

    The longer I live, the more I recall what my Mother told us to do, and that is what I follow. Between drug companies, and Medical studies, you could be driven insane. Then of course there is the 15 minute time limit for a Doctors visit, that causes hypertension. Then for we guys their is the totally controversial PSA test. I am going fishing !

    June 2, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. David Crandall

    I am very sure that coffee and chocolate causes esophageal cancer because they cause acid reflux which will damage the esophagus and will lead to cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. AJ

    Drink lots of coffee (to prevent prostate cancer) and take lots of vitamin D (to prevent both colon & prostate cancer). Very, very, very few people with an adequate blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (between 40 & 100 nanograms per mililiter of blood) develop either of these cancers. The problem is that with our modern-day limited sun exposure, without taking supplements it is very hard to get your vitamin D level into that adequate range.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Steve

    I guess if you drink coffee while talking on a cell phone you might as well just give it up.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply

    BREAKING NEWS: Having cancer causes cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 21:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Phil

    Actually, the leading cause of death is birth.....

    June 2, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Drew

    Very informative article.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. sharon

    I am so sick of everything causing cancer it is going to give me ulcers or a heart attack ! That will show them !!!

    June 2, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Romeo

    Mmmm... everything............. may lead to cancer how ab.that?????

    June 2, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Live a Little

    Having Cancer is cool. Cancer is a "Get out of Jail" free card straight to heaven.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Hutch

    Has anyone considered that it's "The Laboratory Mice" that cause cancer? They determine whether we live or die.

    My real question is how many rads did they bombard these mice with?

    Remember the Cyclamates from the late '60's. The amounts they gave the mice were equivalent to consuming a six pack of soda, each day for 50 years.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. WAHEID

    Having watched a loved one slowly dying of cancer, I can tell you cancer is no laughing matter. It's not a matter of going to bed one night and not waking up in the morning. It's more a matter of a painful deterioration of the body until the body finally gives up. I don't know what does and does not cause cancer, but when someone with expert knowledge of the subject tells me that some activity may cause cancer, I pay attention.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
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