If you are a nutrition professional, then you may often find yourself addressing the media-induced health concerns of patients and clients. With the wealth of nutrition miscommunication out there, it is no wonder that many people are afraid of getting cancer from a variety of food products.
This happens often. Concerns about carcinogenic substances in our food and water are real and should not be trivialized. However, how do we know if there is enough evidence to justify every concern?
How do we know if a food causes cancer or not?
What do we tell any patient or client who reads these scary claims?
As nutrition professionals, we can reference evidence-based recommendations and evaluate the available research. But…
Do you ever find that you do not have time to complete a literature review on all the claims that are brought to you?
Rest assured…there are wonderful resources for you, the nutrition professional, to reference. Other experts have done the leg work for you. All you need to do is read then use your judgment and communication skills.
One great resource for the scientific literature on substances that are questioned to cause cancer is the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). More specifically, their monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans.
Use your professional judgement to determine if there appears to be substantial evidence supporting the claims. Remember to look at the populations studied, the doses, and duration of exposure, and the size of the effect.
Many people take the presence of evidence to be a cause for alarm. They do not realize that a great deal of applicable evidence needs to be available before guidelines are developed and recommendations are provided.
For example, observations from studies evaluating effects of herbicides on agricultural workers should not be directly translated to the public. Obviously, the agricultural workers would have greater exposure for a longer duration.
When warranted, use evidence from sources such as the IARC to deescalate an anxious situation and refocus a patient’s attention back to well-known, unrefuted healthy behaviors.
The IARC is not the only credible resource, but it is a great place to start.
Request to Join one of her LinkedIn Groups: