Do Magnalite Pots Cause Cancer?

Magnalite is a brand of aluminum cookware, popular due to its versatility. The debate whether Magnalite pots, and aluminum cookware in general, can cause cancer, has been gaining traction in the recent years. In this blog, we will look at the available evidence on whether the components of Magnalite cookware can cause cancer.
Jakub Hantabal

Jakub Hantabal

Postgraduate student of Precision Cancer Medicine at the University of Oxford, and a data scientist.

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There are two main concerns with Magnalite cookware: aluminum and the non-stick coating.

Does aluminum cause cancer?

Aluminum is found in many products we use daily, including food, personal care products, and even vaccines. The evidence is very inconclusive with the involvement of aluminum in cancer development, and more research is needed due to the complexity of cancer as a disease.

Research has shown that aluminum can have a toxic effect on intestinal epithelial cells, leading to a decrease in cell viability and an increase in reactive oxygen species generation. Reactive oxygen species are molecules that are toxic to cells, with a role in development and invasiveness of cancer. This suggests that aluminum could potentially increase inflammation and contribute to development of intestinal cancer [1].

In the context of breast cancer, the impact of aluminum on stability of genes involved in breast cancer such as ERBB2, C-MYC, and CCND1 was studied, however no impact was concluded [2]. However, other studies have shown that long-term exposure to aluminum could make the cancer cells more aggressive and prone to migration (ultimately leading to metastasis) [3, 4]. Aluminum has also been shown to increase the metastatic potential of colorectal cancer cells through upregulation of matrix metalloproteinases (enzymes that degrade the environment around a tumour allowing it to spread and metastasize) and the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway [5]. Exposure to aluminum salts was found to transform mouse mammary gland cells into cancerous [6].

It is important to note that while these studies suggest a potential role of aluminum in cancer development, a causal relationship was not proven. Results from in-vitro cell lines or mouse models are not directly translatable to human patients. Therefore, more research is needed to understand the role of aluminum in cancer development.

Does non-stick coating cause cancer?

Some Magnalite cookware is coated with a non-stick coating containing a chemical called PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid). This is another concern in safety of Magnalite; there is mixed evidence about the role of PFOA in cancer development.

PFOA has been shown to promote tumour growth in Syrian hamster embryo (SHE) cells [7]. However, again, this study was performed on an in-vitro cell line, and the concentrations of PFOA were much higher than could be encountered in real life.

In human studies, the evidence is mixed. Some studies have found positive associations between PFOA exposure and certain types of cancer. For instance, a meta-analysis of multiple studies found that for every 10 ng/mL increase in PFOA in blood, there was a 16% increase in kidney cancer risk and a 3% increase in testicular cancer risk [8]. Another study found a positive association between PFOA exposure and kidney and testicular cancer, with hazard ratios of 1.10 and 1.34, respectively [9].

However, other studies have found no clear link between PFOA exposure and cancer risk. A review of 18 epidemiological studies found that the majority of relative risk estimates for both PFOA and PFOS (a related compound) were between 0.5 and 2.0, with 95% confidence intervals including 1.0, therefore concluding no significant association with cancer incidence or mortality [10].

While some studies suggest a potential link between PFOA exposure and certain types of cancer, the evidence is not conclusive and robust enough to inform public health decisions. More research is needed to fully understand the potential health effects of PFOA exposure.

In conclusion: Is Magnalite Cookware safe?

All non-stick and aluminum cookware is considered safe, with no conclusive evidence supporting its role in cancer devleopment. However, to minimise risk and ensure longevity of your cookware, it needs to be maintained and cared for.

It is crucial to avoid using metal and hard utensils when you use your cookware. These can scratch and compromise the surface of your pots and pans, including the non-stick coating. Instead, opt for wooden spatulas and cooking spoons [11]. Replace your cookware made of aluminum or nonstick every 2 to 3 years or when gouges or scratches in the coating are visible. This is because damaged or worn-out cookware can pose health risks [11, 12]. Additionally, it is generally considered safer to cook on low to medium heat, although most non-stick coatings can withstand temperatures up to 260°C [12]. Finally, always follow the manufacturer's instructions for safe use and care. This will ensure that your cookware lasts longer and remains safe to use [12].

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Jakub Hantabal

Jakub Hantabal

Jakub is a postgraduate student of Precision Cancer Medicine at the University of Oxford, and a data scientist. His research focuses on the impact of hypoxia on genetic and proteomic changes in cancer. Jakub also consults and collaborates with multiple institutions in the United Kingdom and Slovakia supporting research groups with advanced data analysis, and he also co-founded an NGO organising educational events in data science.