Friday, December 28, 2007

Recent Study States the Obvious: Processed Meats, Including Bacon and Sausages Carry Significant Cancer Risk

Not that we didn’t already know this, but….


Bacon, other processed meats especially risky, scientists say


New Scientist magazine

If you want to avoid cancer, it may be time to ditch those breakfast fry-ups. A comprehensive report on the link between nutrition and cancer recommends avoiding all processed meats, including bacon and some sausages. It also advises against eating more than 6 grams of salt per day.

While many foods carry a cancer risk, most of them can be eaten in moderation without noticeably endangering health. However, for salted or cured meats, there is no clear safe dose, says Martin Wiseman, project director of the report, published in November by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

One reason for avoiding processed meats is that they often contain nitrates -- preservatives that may contribute to the production of suspected carcinogens called N-nitroso compounds. Processed meats also contain high levels of salt, which is linked to stomach cancer.

The report gives 10 lifestyle recommendations for reducing the risk of cancer. While some of these measures are rather severe, Wiseman is optimistic that the report will persuade people to change their eating habits, at least in terms of cutting out unhealthful foods, such as processed meat.

"It won't be straightforward, but it's not impossible," he says. "There's this idea that diet is immutable, but there have actually been huge changes, even in the last 10 years." For example, the scare over mad cow disease in the UK had a substantial impact on the nation's beef consumption in the 1990s, he says.

The report also reveals clear links between obesity and a range of cancers, but Wiseman doubts that this will easily persuade people to lose weight.

"The public has the notion that fat gives you heart disease and diabetes, but they don't realize it also gives you cancer," he says. "After smoking, obesity is the highest preventable cancer risk."

Wiseman concedes that "the risk from processed meat is an order of magnitude less than that from smoking" but is nevertheless "not trivial." For example, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 21 percent for every 50 grams of processed meat eaten every day, on average. By comparison, smoking 20 cigarettes per day can lead to a 20- to 40-fold increase in the risk of lung cancer.

Linda Geddes contributed to this report.

Ten ways to avoid cancer

1. Body fat. Aim for a body mass index of 21 to 23, and avoid weight gain during adulthood.

2. Physical activity. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity, like brisk walking, every day.

3. Junk food. Avoid sugary drinks and energy-dense fast food.

4. Meat. Eat no more than 500 grams of red meat per week, and avoid processed meats.

5. Alcohol. Limit daily intake to one drink for women, two drinks for men. Do not binge drink.

6. Fruit and vegetables. Eat five portions of fruit and non-starchy vegetables each day and limit refined starchy food.

7. Preservatives. Avoid salt-preserved foods. Limit salt intake to 6 grams per day.

8. Dietary supplements. Avoid them, except in special cases such as folic acid during pregnancy.

9. Breastfeeding. Try to breastfeed for six months.

10. Cancer survivors. Seek professional nutritional advice

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