Hot Dogs and Childhood Cancer

by in American Sickcare System, Kitchen Sink, Pediatrics, Weight Loss, Whole Foods Diet July 2, 2008

watermelonkid.jpgBy Dr. Nicole Sundene

I came across this story about hot dogs at the Chicago Tribune and thought, “Oh dear! What is this world coming to? Hot dogs still? REALLY?”

“A whole recipe contest for the ‘wonderous wienie’?”

“Oh my!”

Hot dogs are not a healthy friend of the kitchen table.

A while back I stopped by the grocery store and was asked to buy a hot dog to support breast cancer.

Always the first to write a check for some Girl Scout cookies, I was forced to unfortunately say “no thank you” to the hot dog fund raiser. What I did do though, was immediately call my sister, a fellow health food freak to discuss the deep dark irony of hosting a hot dog fund raiser for cancer. (My sister and I are pretty much the female version of the finicky, persnickety duo Fraiser and Niles Crane on a Whole Foods Diet).

She suggested that I sell cigarettes to raise funds for lung cancer research.

We had a good laugh over the silly satire of the situation, and thought up a bunch of other ridiculous fund raisers. I couldn’t help but hang up and still feel gloomy and defeated that our American Sickcare System is so tangled up in hype, blinders, and microscopic thinking.

Sometimes we easily lose track of the big picture with health, disease, diet, and lifestyle choices. No, hot dogs have not been shown to cause breast cancer at this prudent juncture, however, they ARE implicated in increasing the risk of childhood cancers.

The nitrites used to preserve hot dogs and other lunch meats form nitrosamines either in the cooking process or in our gut. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens implicated in cancers of the bladder, mouth, esophagus, stomach, and brain.

If hot dogs are associated with cancer even slightly, then why bother eating them I say?

If they are implicated in child hood cancers, and thought to increase your child’s risk of developing cancer NINE-FOLD when an average of 3 hot dogs per week are consumed, then WHY by all means are they even allowed to be served in school cafeterias, daycares, and hospitals? If one hot dog a week increases your child’s risk of developing brain cancer, why would any parent want to feed their child such a food?

Unfortunately most parents that I talk to are clueless to the hot dog conundrum.

Look at this innocent little guy eating watermelon in the above picture. Kids are just as happy with healthy foods, and it is our job to make educated decisions around feeding them. They don’t know any better.

Today’s Healthy Kitchen Tasks: Get hot dogs with nitrites out of your life. Ask the professionals preparing your children’s meals why hot dogs are being served to them if they are thought to increase the risk of childhood leukemias and brain tumors. Show them this article.

The bottom line is that institutions don’t want to pay for quality food. School cafeterias, prisons, hospitals, and other government run facilities have to work on a budget, and the budget they are expected to keep scarily determines MUCH of our “nutritional requirements”. The dietary RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is set especially low so these government run programs can meet the bare minimums.

Something to think about the next time you send your child off to school to purchase a hot dog and some tater tots.

Hot dogs should not be the bare minimum.

Let’s stop and evaluate the big picture.

The more clean and moderately we live, the more disease we can prevent. Avoiding the consumption of hot dogs is crucial to clean healthy living. If our efforts prevent cancer in one child, then they are well worth it. Maybe your child won’t be affected, but it sure will matter a great deal to the parents of the one that is.

If you HAVE to have a hot dog, save it for a sporting event or carnival. Even Disneyland is moving towards healthier choices, and so should we. “When in Rome” is a good rule of thumb for hot dogs.

Needless to say, hot dogs should not be daily or even weekly guests at our kitchen tables. Look for healthier protein options that are NOT prepared with potential carcinogens such as sodium nitrites. Anything on the label that says “nitrite” or “nitrate” after it, means potentially carcinogenic. Cured fish, and bacon also contain nitrites. Purchase bratwursts and higher quality intestinal meats from whole foods markets. They won’t have as long of a shelf life, so keep them in the freezer.

Keep in mind that these low quality protein sources actually are extremely high in saturated fat which is not good for any inflammatory health condition (almost all disease is caused by inflammation), nor is consuming saturated fats in hot dogs good for PREVENTING disease such as the clogged arteries that cause heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Best case scenario, though, let’s just remove the hot dog’s seat at the kitchen table. Who needs a nasty old hot dog sitting around at dinner time anyways?

For more information about today’s tirade, you can read an important question and answer series about hot dogs and cancer at

If you have any ideas for any other “great” fund raisers. Feel free to leave them in the comments section.

  1. AWESOME post!! I’ve been against hot dogs since I read that 80% of kids with childhood cancer eat hot dogs on average three times a week.

    We don’t buy them, and my kids only eat them when they’re served at birthday parties. It amazes me how few parents know how unhealthy hot dogs are. It’s for this reason that I appreciate posts such as yours that help to increase awarness 🙂

  2. When I saw the part where you mentioned how you were asked to buy hotdogs to support a fund raiser against breast cancer, I was thinking “uh oh. buy something that causes cancer to fight in a campaign against cancer spells trouble”.

    Until I read the last part where you recommend that unless we really need to have one, save it till such campaigns or events (which they are rather rare – hopefully so).

    I think the last time I ever had one hotdog was 3 to 4 months ago? I could do with one soon. 🙂

    Nice article there Dr Nicole!

  3. Hi Dr. Nicole,

    I thought maybe you were pushing hot dogs for the 4th. I should have known better.

    I think hot dogs become the “food of choice” for kids because they’re so easy to prepare. I think they taste nasty, and will rarely eat them. It reminds me of the story of how if we knew how things were made, we would never eat them again. Maybe you’ll need to find a Flickr video of the hot dog making process. You think?

  4. Yeah, I RARELY eat those things – just at events where they are served occasionally. I like them, but I know how bad they are for you.

    Next time you see a hot dog RUN RUN RUN!

    Great post. Thanks for getting the word out to parents who aren’t aware. We will not have them at my house, except on maybe rare occasions.

    If I do happen to by hot dogs, I get the turkey dogs. How are they healthwise?

  5. Hey, I know! Let’s sell donuts to raise money to fight diabetes! Yeah–or lollipops for a campaign against tooth decay. How funny. I’m a little shocked that anyone would be so dense.

  6. Guilty as charged – I still have about half a pack of hotdogs in the fridge.

  7. Yup, hotdogs are evil – they use all the worst parts of cows and pigs. Hawking wieners for breast cancer — that’s funny but very very poor thinking on the organizers’ part.

  8. I loved this article..I am right there with you on this topic and I will definitely be linking to this article in my habits to prevent cancer series on my blog! love your writing.

  9. Kids who eat hot dogs once a week double their risk of a brain tumor. Kids eating more than twelve hot dogs a month have nearly ten times the risk of leukemia as children who ate none. However, hot-dog eating children taking supplemental vitamins were shown to have a reduced risk of cancer.

    Sarasua S, Savitz DA. Cured and broiled meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 1994 Mar; 5(2):141-8.

  10. Thanks for this reminder! “Smartdogs” and all the other variations of veggie dogs are really good alternatives. I LOVE making them Chicago-Style with tomatos(from a local yard), relish, mustard, hot peppers, onions and on a high-fructose corn-syrup free hot-dog bun! What a great mouth full!

  11. I used to love hot dogs as a kid. It coulda killed me!

  12. OMG–hot dogs. I worked for social services agencies and at least 2 clients I know had died from eating hot dogs. They are a choking hazard. Children die from them every year.
    And that doesn’t even include the slow deaths that you described. Hot dogs are one of the worst foods on the planet.

  13. Hi Jeanne- I am surprised as well how few parents are aware of this health issue. Thanks for spreading the word and doing your part! I appreciate it, and so do the kids that don’t know how to make the proper decisions.

  14. Hi Daniel- I am so glad you instantly saw the irony in the situation! Thanks for stopping by 😀

  15. Hi Barbara- Ewwwwwwwwwww! I doubt I could even make it through a hot dog making video. I love your scare tactic though. You would make a great doctor!

  16. Hi Jennifer- The turkey dogs are lower in saturated fats, but you should get the noncured variety to avoid the nitrite issues. Especially if pregnant or feeding them to kids.

  17. Hi Anne! Laughing at your fundraisers! Oh the bitter irony of it all. Perhaps a hot dog eating contest to raise money to fight the war on obesity.

  18. Noemi- Oh dear! Well at least you know now. Knowing is half the battle.

  19. Yu Ming, Jade, Paul, Joe, Sunnybeach, Houseonahill-Thanks so much for your comments and compliments! Glad you stopped by 😀

  20. If one hot dog a week increases your child’s risk of developing brain cancer, why would any parent want to feed their child such a food?

    Now that is something I wasn’t even aware of. Have to let my sons know about that and hopefully the will help the grandkids.

    Since we no longer have kids in our house hot dogs aren’t on our shopping list at all.

    Great post

  21. I might eat a hot dog once every 3-4 months–usually enjoy that rare treat–I know they’re not really good for you, and had heard about the cancer connection some years back. I used to have a friend with severe seizure disorder (epilepsy), they didn’t have much money and ate hot dogs several times a week–I helped her discover that hot dogs were a major trigger for her seizures. When she stopped eating them, it decreased the number of them significantly. We also discovered that nutrasweet was also a trigger, when she accidentally bought artificially sweetened yogurt.

    A friend of mine, 57 y/o, with numerous chronic medical conditions is presently sitting in our county jail–long story. She tells me that nearly every meal is either turkey bologna or turkey hot dogs. That’s almost all they serve, meat-wise. She was thrilled, when they gave them real chicken on the 4th of July. The rest of the diet is basic starches. Ya gotta wonder what kind of long term damage they are doing to these people.

    This is my first time visiting your blog. Enjoyed it very much!

  22. […] The Bad Parenting Tax: If you are feeding your kids tons of sodas and hotdogs, and not actual whole food and balanced nutrition then you should be taxed. If you aren’t doing […]

  23. […] validate what I have written:   Hot Dogs and Nitrites   Hot Dogs and Brain Tumors in Children   Hot Dogs and Childhood Cancer : Kitchen Table Medicine Share: This entry was posted in Health. Bookmark the permalink. ← THE BP […]

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