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Researchers Link Food Additive to Lung Cancer

Researchers say it appears that a food additive found in many processed foods may accelerate lung cancer growth, and increase the risk of lung cancer in people predisposed to the disease.

Evidence is accumulating that excessive intake of food additives known as inorganic phosphates, which are put into some meats, cheeses and bakery products to keep them moist, may play a significant role in the aggressiveness and development of lung cancer.

Researchers at the Seoul National University in South Korea conducted the study using mice with lung tumors. Two groups of mice were fed diets containing either 0.5 percent or one percent phosphate, levels roughly equivalent to normal amounts consumed in a human diet.

John Heffner, past president of the American Thoracic Society, says the mice that consumed food laced with the higher amount of the additive had the more aggressive tumors.

"And, they concluded that high dietary phosphate appeared to promote the development and the progression of cancer," said John Heffner. "And, also, they looked at some of the molecular signaling that was going on that promote tumor development, and found alterations in the high phosphate animals."

Scientists say the consumption of foods with additives such as inorganic phosphates has been growing steadily, and future studies may be needed to determine safe levels.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths around the world.

The study by South Korean researchers was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.