Teflon is a brand name for the man-made chemical polytetrafluorothylene (PTFE). Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is another man-made chemical that is used in the process of making Teflon, although it is burned off during the process and is not present in large quantities in the final product. Teflon itself is not suspected to cause cancer.
PFOA exposure has been shown to increase the risk of some tumours in laboratory animals. The results of these studies have not provided conclusive evidence that PFOA causes cancer in animals. Very little research has investigated the effect of PFOA on human cancer risk.
The concern regarding Teflon and cancer risk is around the fumes released when Teflon is used for cooking. According to the Australian Government’s National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), fumes are only released from Teflon-coated cookware when it is heated to extremely high temperatures (340°C-650°C); temperatures so high they would incinerate your food. There is no evidence that fumes are released from cookware at or below normal cooking temperatures. It is however advisable not to overheat an empty non-stick pan or to leave it unattended on the stove, particularly at a high setting.