Processed meat has been ‘linked to breast cancer’

processed meats linked to breast cancer

According to researchers, regularly eating processed meats such as bacon and sausages may raise the risk of breast cancer. In a review of studies, researchers found that women who ate high levels of processed meat had a 9% increased risk of cancer, compared to those who ate little of it.

This study also supports previous findings by the World Health Organisation, which has said that processed meats cause cancer. Meanwhile, experts recommend we are cautious with these findings and that the risk between processed meats and cancer is still “very small”.

Whilst the review looked at the data of more than one million women and does show a link between eating processed meat and breast cancer risk, it is difficult to confirm that it is the food that is actually causing this. It’s also worth noting the different studies making up the research had different definitions of what a high consumption of processed meat was – in some it was equivalent to just two or three rashes of bacon a week, in others this was much higher.

What is the current risk of developing breast cancer?

In the UK, 14 out of every 100 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer Research UK currently estimates that about 23% of breast cancers are preventable, with 8% being caused by being overweight and obese and the other 8% being caused by alcohol. In fact, in a recent report by Cancer Research UK, obesity is set to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in women. 

Is processed meat dangerous? 

Despite the shortcomings in the research noted above, the World Health Organisation lists processed meat as carcinogenic, due to evidence linking it to a raised risk of bowel cancer.

Processed meats include sausages and hotdogs, bacon, ham and salami, all of which has been smoked, cured or has added salt or preservatives to extend shelf life.

At present, NHS guidelines suggests we should be eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat per day.

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