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. Heather

    I don't have a cell phone. (no joke) That means I can have another cup of coffee and break even. :p

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

      and eat kimchi

      June 2, 2011 at 22:45 | Report abuse |
    • chedar

      Who cares about Kimchi. It smells like dead rat when my wife open the can each time she eats it.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:00 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Chedar, your wife gets CANNED kimchi?! At least I get the kind in a jar! NASTY!!!

      I have several cell phones, each to its purpose, I switch SiMM card as needed (all unlocked from overseas).
      I barely use the things. As in prepaid (cost isn't worth a monthly bill for MY use) and go until my money isn't worth anything any longer and I have to pay yet again for minutes that I'll not use.
      Funny thing, when I was deployed overseas, I had those same phones there, postpaid (regular plan, but NO CONTRACT). Used the things to death, but STILL wasn't welded to the things.
      But, they came in handy when I was on leave, in spite of the bill, as I got calls to bail out the guys still there in the war zone, while I was on leave. It always gave me a chuckle doing that, from half the world away.

      As for coffee causing cancer, yet it protects us from cancer, yet it does nothing to cause or prevent cancer, yet it causes it...
      My dick causes cancer, per some studies (OK, male members in general).
      Oxygen has been PROVEN to be linked with cancer. Every creature that consumes oxygen gets cancer in general.
      Better yet, let the scientists find consensus for ONCE. THEN report it. This is cattle cookies on rye.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:43 | Report abuse |
    • pat

      Wizrd, the stuff in a jar is canned.

      June 3, 2011 at 02:04 | Report abuse |
  2. The Bear

    **** off already. Geez.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Welcome to Reality

    Jocelyn Stamat – Very good catch. You're correct, CNN got it wrong. But, when it comes to pesky facts and science, when was the last time CNN wrote an article that got it right?

    June 2, 2011 at 22:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MB

    Everything is moderation!!! Use a wired headset or speakerphone, drink latte instead of straight coffee and don't put your head too close to the pump...

    June 2, 2011 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      Or just wear sunscreen, don't smoke, exercise, and eat a healthy variety of foods (especially fruits and vegetables).

      a lot of these risks are very minimal. It's like freaking out about the 1 in 1 million chance the MMR vaccine will give your child encephalitis when measles has a 1 in 1000 chance of death.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:22 | Report abuse |
  5. Leo

    Hmm..only a thought.
    Does the plastic found in our coffeemakers have anything to do with the problems? (besides these bogus studies). All that hot beverage flowing through a plastic cant be good, which we then consume.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Renjie Abraham

      Agreed. Last year, I started using a stainless steel kettle, a ceramic pour-over dripper, and a glass server. I stopped using my coffeemaker because I was curious about whether the plastic made a difference in taste. But then I also realized that the plastic might be leaching chemicals into the boiling water. So now I drink better tasting and (hopefully) healthier coffee.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:32 | Report abuse |
  6. RN ICU

    There's observational data and then there's common sense. I always go with common sense. Not going to cook my brain today. Thanks.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Unfortunately in this case, common sense is not correct. You cannot "cook" your brain with a cellphone.

      June 2, 2011 at 23:19 | Report abuse |
  7. chris

    Look – the Interphone study was quite large (30 countries?), and while not statistically conclusive the data (which was sizable) SUGGESTED a 2x risk of certain cancers in heavy users (10 yrs at 30+ mins/day). That data – 2x the # tumors on the side of the head the phone was used in a very large # of datapoints.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Montyhp

      Actually it was more like 5 hours per day for 10 years. It was really a ludicrous exposure group and greatly prone to recall bias.

      Also, don't forget to mention that if you used your phone for less than 5 hours per day, you were actually protected from cancer (significantly lower risk).

      One of my pet peeves is political decision making based on poor or misinterpreted science.

      June 2, 2011 at 23:02 | Report abuse |
    • George

      There was a study done about 20 years ago that showed that caffeine caused cancer in lab rats. The interesting thing is that once people looked at the size of the rats, and the amount of caffeine they were given; it was determined that a human would have to drink 700 cups of coffee a day to get the same result and effect.

      June 2, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse |
  8. Jon

    Screw it, I'm tired of living in fear of cancer. I plan on drinking 3 gallons of coffee while constantly being on the phone with time and temp for the next 24 hours

    June 2, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mojo

      Don't forget to eat pickles and fill up your gas tank.

      June 2, 2011 at 22:47 | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    @MB. A latte? Seriously? Guessing your caffiene addiction hasn't gotten that bad yet.

    Screw it, at this point everything gives you cancer. May as well go out big with liver cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. kevin prinsen

    Astonishing! And did you you know that 97% of cancer patients have had milk at least five times in their life? (probably with coffee). If cell phones and coffee were fatal, I would not be writing this. Junk science! Or junk journalism. Both?

    June 2, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. FrauSchmidt

    Eat vegetables and you may get E-Coli and may die of it ....or boredom.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. John

    After reading all the comments, I wonder about our illiterate scientific society. I wonder if this is the same group of people who keep voting for the same politicians that keep America from advancing. I have about come to the conclusion that a society of free people are to ignorant to govern themselves.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • oldboldgold

      Lighten up John....."to" what?

      June 3, 2011 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
    • Pierre Chenier

      That should be: "too" ignorant to govern themselves. LOL

      June 3, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
  13. Shalomit

    Enough already! I remember in the late '60's they took diet soda off the shelf because they said it could cause cancer. My father in law bought up all he could get. He'd read the fine print. It would take literally cases of soda every day to cause cancer. I have friends who don't use deodorant because they read it could cause cancer. One won't wear a bra for the same reason. I use my cell only to call the phone company when my landline is out because I am homebound. But if I was out I sure wouldn't worry about the cell. Every day somebody comes up w/ something new that will cause cancer; the healthy food guidelines change constantly. At this point, I'm reasonably sure you could find somebody who would tell you that everything we eat or use can cause cancer. It's beginning to sound like Jim Jones had the right idea, tho for the wrong reasons. Why don't we all give up food, water, clothing, and die in a couple of weeks before something else we're doing, eating, using can give us cancer? I know one Italian word, and it fits well: BASTA!

    June 2, 2011 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rach

    Wait...so I'm going to die?


    June 2, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gnodges

      Yes, you are......

      June 3, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse |
  15. cree8iv

    ...On my cell phone, drinking my coffee and preparing my pickled vegetables...oye vey – enough already. Everything causes cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Adelina

    Everything causes cancer, from the air you breathe or sunlight on your skin to any animal meat you consume into your body. Cell phones are particularly bad among everything you touch. Americans should concern how honorably they can live and raise children of good character than how long they can live and have more fun, just like their ancestors did. Long human life of stupidity and selfishness is meaningless and is bad for the planet, too.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Adelina

    Read the Bible and listen to people like the Pope, Americans, if you have any energy to control your coffee intake.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Adelina

    The best way to lose spirit in advanced years of life – living for self, concentrating on self, worshipping self. (Women who call themselves goddesses are the worst, hopeless beasts among all. The goddesses are supposed to be out-worldly beautiful forever. No human woman is. Stop the insanity.)

    June 2, 2011 at 22:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Adelina

    Woman, please don't ever imagine yourselves to be any goddess. It's a nightmare joke and more ridiculous than calling the Planet Earth "mother" because she wishes mankind to be done with and is asking God to rescue her from them. You are not a goddess and you can never be because you are too ugly. Admit the hard fact. You are just ugly, power-hungry abuser of man when you claim to be a goddess. If you want to be truly beautiful, learn to be submissive to your man, unless he is a criminal.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tellin'itlikeitis

      Submissive? You have got to be joking. Men screw everything up ALL THE TIME, so naturally "Mother" earth will rid the world of all men and through evolution, and allow us women to procreate without a man. Then we will all be Goddesses!

      June 3, 2011 at 00:39 | Report abuse |
    • Rube

      Got low self esteem, Adelina? Low self worth? Body image issues? Sorry for you... 🙁

      June 3, 2011 at 00:50 | Report abuse |
    • Adelina

      @Tell- and Rube: No, you need men unless you are nuns. Nothing excet for submission makes woman beautiful in this world. Get a life. Just do your best to find a man worthy of respect and of your obedience.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse |
  20. rich

    Look out folks .Dead man walking here. I wonder when they will come out with their findings about the air you Take in some of these cities around the world.

    June 2, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Adelina

    Man, stop being ruled by the air-headed woman who knows nothing else but showing her skin. Your refusal to be responsible to protect woman is worse for yur health than catching cancer from having coffee.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. John

    "They" also said that margarine was better for us than butter, and it was full of trans fats! Thanks jerks. We ate trans fats for years based on your crappy science. The fact is, the #1 killer in America, by far, is heart disease. That's what will get you, more likely than not.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. McGuffin

    Man, CNN sure has latched onto this desperate attempt to scare people. It's not that hard to pick any substance and keep studying it until one study eventually "proves" that there's a <5% probability that the cancer in a test group was due to chance.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. rich

    The hell with it..

    June 2, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. GbreadMan

    It's not the coffee that kills you...it's the rainbow oil-slick of third-world carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides that floats up to the top of your cup of Joe that will kill you.

    All these coffees are just mixed around and randomly dumped into plastic cans of coffee by the Folgers and Maxwell House canneries, so sometimes the coffee is good for you because it has almost no carcinogens...but sometimes you get a batch from a pesticide-loving nation, and it starts to kill you.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rube

      What nation loves pesticides more than The United States of America? Other countries only use them because if they don't, it's hard for them to export their product to America...

      June 3, 2011 at 00:54 | Report abuse |
  26. samy

    If they cared they would find a way to cure what causes it or find a way to keep the causes at bay.

    Well back to the world of cancer and DOOM!

    June 2, 2011 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 2, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. SoloLoboEngineer

    The link to the WHO complete list of carcinogens reports an INVERSE relationship between coffee and bowel cancer (opposite of statement in third paragraph of story)

    June 2, 2011 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. will

    If this is true about the coffee I guess we have to chalk up another one for the Mormons' law of health.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. keltari

    There was a study not to long ago that said coffee reduced cancer. In the end, I eat, drink, and do what I like. Why waste time worrying.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Carlos Ocampo

    Enjoy what you do,drink, eat, and party with, apparently everything gives you cancer.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. steve

    Being a radar tech for the USAF for the last 15 years its just plain common sense that cellphones can raise the risk of cancer. There is a ton of warnings we must abide by for our equipment for wartime ops and to even take a low power unit such as a cell phone and place it next to your brain seems totally idiotic when you stop to think about it. Folks go out and buy the ear piece with the mike that is corded. Keep that unit away from your body as much as you can. I own a cell phone yes but it rarely gets next to my head. Hands free in the car or corded on the desk at work.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. George

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a series of observations here:

    1. Some things in this world cause cancer; and some things don't.
    2. Some people in this world will get cancer; and some people won't.
    3. Some of those who get cancer will die, and some won't; but either way, at some point in the future, everyone will die.

    Disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my opinions at any time without advance notice.

    June 2, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. dave

    There are negative consequences to every possible food we eat. Any one know of a food that doesn't?

    June 3, 2011 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gnodges

      Sigh, not true.

      June 3, 2011 at 01:09 | Report abuse |
  35. Darren

    I just read a while ago that coffee fights and reduces risk of cancer. Who writes these articles?!

    June 3, 2011 at 00:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Bao

    Religion is the cause of cancer! It's the universe's way of telling you that you are retarded.

    June 3, 2011 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Beni

    Isn't it obvious by now, everything CAN cause cancer. But more than likely it won't if used in or consumed in moderation. Next stupid headline...

    June 3, 2011 at 00:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. edvhou812

    In other news, everyone will die someday.

    June 3, 2011 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rube

      *gasp!* Say it ain't so!! 🙂

      June 3, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse |
    • Mortal

      Even the non smokers, the workout addicts, and the people who eat only asphalt-flavored health food? I thought that they would be rewarded with an ageless immortal life for all of their hard work and self-sacrifice.

      June 3, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse |
  39. Karen

    Living, possibly cause cancer and other diseases.

    June 3, 2011 at 00:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. armando

    This article may also cause cancer....

    June 3, 2011 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RF

    "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."

    Good article that puts things into perspective. Thanks. The fear over cell phones is completely ridiculous. As an RF Engineer, I understand the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. Apparently the WHO expert panel doesn't. The difference in wavelengths between cell phone emissions and high-energy ionizing radiation is like the difference of being tapped with a plastic baseball bat vs. having your body pierced by a sub-atomic sized needle. Hint: The ~1 foot wavelength of a cell phone emission is not going to cause DNA damage. The wavelength of a gamma-ray will.

    June 3, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Camilo Malagon

      Interestingly enough – though I am a physicist and agree with you – is that they consider "frying" a possible cause of cancer. Apparently exposure to high temperatures over extended periods of time can cause cancer – and I think some people – those at the WHO – are worried about the microwave radiation given off by cellphones. I won´t swear by it, but I have to say that I am starting to be more careful with how I use my cellphone, just in case. I still use it – but try to use a hands free device (not a wireless one) whenever I know I will be on the phone for extended periods of time...

      June 3, 2011 at 03:04 | Report abuse |
  42. swag

    Scientists discover the leading cause of death is life itself.

    June 3, 2011 at 00:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Lee

    As a former R.N. for 19 yrs. I've heard so many theories of what is deleterious and not. It's overwhelming. I'm sticking to what I normally do: drink my coffee as much as I like and a hex on these investigations.

    June 3, 2011 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Kevin

    Life causes cancer.

    June 3, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Adelina

    Thick, bitter, the foaming green tea is good for you.

    June 3, 2011 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. jaja

    i like turtles

    June 3, 2011 at 01:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • obama's daddy

      jaja u seem like a very intellectual individual

      June 3, 2011 at 01:58 | Report abuse |
  47. Camilo Malagon

    If you look at the list, it says that drinking coffee is inversely related to cancer of the large bowel. Whoever wrote this article did not pay attention to detail apparently...

    It did say that drinking coffee causes cancer of the urinary bladder....

    June 3, 2011 at 03:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. ben dover

    ROTFLMAO !!! Worrying about cancer causes cancer !!! Get it straight dummies .

    June 3, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Stacey

    I'm not sure, but isn't coffee sprayed with pesticides? And aren't plastics suspected to be carcinogenic? So if coffee is grown with the use of pesticides and then steamed in the plastic basket with boiling water then no wonder coffee is suspect.

    June 3, 2011 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Mortal

    Pick your poison, you're going to die of something and the death will probably not be pleasant. The minute you accept this, your life becomes a lot less stressful and you stop caring about nonsense like this. Until they find a cure for dying, I really don't care.

    June 3, 2011 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.