London: Common foods from burnt toast to low-fat salad dressing have been linked to increased cancer risk. But US scientists have now warned that many reports connecting familiar ingredients with increased cancer risk have little statistical significance and should be treated with caution.“When we examined the reports, we found many had borderline or no statistical significance,” the Guardian quoted Dr Jonathan Schoenfeld of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, as saying.Writing in a paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Schoenfeld and his co-author, John Ioannidis of Stanford University, said that trials have repeatedly failed to find effects for observational studies, which had initially linked various foods to cancer. Recent reports have linked colouring in fizzy drinks, low-fat salad dressing, burnt toast and tea to elevated cancer risk. In the past, red meat, hot dogs, doughnuts and bacon have also been highlighted. To examine the implications of these reports, Schoenfeld and Ioannidis selected ingredients at random from the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.“We used random numbers to select recipes and collected the ingredients from these” said Schoenfeld.“This gave us a good range of common – and a few not so common – foods. Then we put each of those ingredients into a search engine to find out their associations with cancer risks in medical literature. We found that 40 out of the 50 ingredients we had selected had been studied as having possible links with cancer. The 10 that had not been studied were less common ingredients,” he added.
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