Processed Meat Linked to Higher Colorectal Cancer Risk

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By News Team on October 27, 2015

Did you know that you actually have control over your cancer risk? You do!

Step 1: Put down the hot dog and step away from the bacon.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report that concluded that processed meats—such as bacon, salami, sausage and hot dogs—are carcinogenic to humans, and red meat—such as pork, lamb, and beef—is likely carcinogenic to humans.

A carcinogen is defined as a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. A classification of carcinogenic is the strongest level of cancer risk, and the same hazard category as tobacco. 

“It is not a surprise that processed meats and red meats have been linked to cancer, particularly with colorectal cancer,” said Angela Charlton, R.D.N., C.N.S.C., C.S.O., a Carilion Clinic registered dietitian and nutritionist, “We have been recommending that people avoid or limit their intake of those foods for some time. What is significant about this study is that it actually categorizes processed meats as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic.”

The study went on to show that there is strong evidence of a link between consuming processed meat and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. WHO noted that eating an additional 50 grams of processed meat per day—or fewer than two slices of bacon—is associated with an 18 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

“In general, to reduce your risk you need to avoid processed meats and only eat small amounts of red meat on occasion,” explained Charlton. “Instead, eat more lean sources of protein such as legumes, nuts, fish and poultry. And, overall, you need to focus on eating a plant filled diet, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.”

Talk to your health care provider today about your cancer risk, and if you are age 45 or over, get screened. Regular colonoscopies are the best way to detect colorectal cancer early.