pots and pans

As we learn more about contributors to cancer, outcry occasionally pops up about how everyday objects can increase your risk. Although some foods have been believed to decrease the risk of cancer, can some of the utensils you use to cook or prepare those foods contribute to your cancer risk themselves? Many people wonder whether certain types of cookware can leach harmful metals and chemicals into food.

When shopping for new cookware or cleaning out your cabinets, most of what’s on the market is generally safe, but you may want to choose some materials over others to lessen exposure to metals and coatings.

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Safety of Common Cookware

Aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel are great choices for cookware and cooking utensils. Although all metals may release into food, the amount is minimal, and these three options have little to no negative health effects associated.


Aluminum is a popular material for cookware because it is inexpensive, durable, and conducts heat well. Nonstick, scratch-resistant, anodized aluminum pots and pans are a great choice for cooking, and research has shown the amount of aluminum entering the food is negligible. Some studies found a correlation between Alzheimer’s Disease and aluminum; however, no direct cause was ever established. The Alzheimer’s Society does not recognize normal daily intake of aluminum through food or cookware as a cause for the disease. Additionally, aluminum from cooking utensils has not been linked to cancer.

Cast Iron

Cast iron may be one of the best choices for cookware. It conducts heat well and poses little risks for cooking. At most, a small amount of iron may be added to your diet through the use of cast iron.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is another material for pots and pans as well as spatulas and spoons. It is affordable, sturdy, and conducts heat well. Stainless steel doesn’t wear down easily, making it a safe choice for cooking.


Ceramic dishes containing lead should be avoided, particularly those not made in the United States or intended for decoration only. The lead can release into food, causing serious health problems, particularly for children. Cookware with a nonstick coating, such as Teflon®, is best used at low-to-medium heat to avoid potential fumes that may irritate people or pets.

Lessen Leaching and Exposure in Your Food

Overall, research hasn’t shown a link between cancer risk and commonly used cooking utensils. However, if you are concerned about the build-up of chemicals or metals being released into food from cooking, here are simple steps to lessen your exposure.

  • Ensure cookware is in good condition. No matter the material, always make sure your cookware is free of cracks or rough edges that can trap bacteria. Throw away any cookware that the nonstick coating is peeling away.
  • Store leftovers in glass containers, rather than aluminum or plastic. Aluminum breaks down over time, especially in cans, and plastics can release chemicals in food while stored and upon reheating.
  • Use wood or silicone spoons and spatulas. Metal and hard plastic utensils can scratch nonstick surfaces, creating spaces for bacteria to grow.
  • Limit acidic foods cooked and stored in metal pans. Foods such as citrus, vinegar, and tomatoes increase the amount of metal that can leach out of cookware. For cooking acidic foods, cast iron may be one of the best options.

As we learn more and more about the nature of cancer and its variety of causes, more can be done to help find a cure and prevent this disease.

To learn more about the latest in the field of cancer research and treatments, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center today.

About Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center

The UPMC Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Center is a joint program between UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. We provide long-term care for adolescents, young adults, maternal patients, and adults with congenital heart disease. Our goal is to provide complete care from your childhood all the way through your life. Our team of experts has a wide knowledge of heart conditions.