Is My Christmas Ham a Processed Meat?

Simply put? Yep.

“Processed meat” is any meat that’s preserved by salting, smoking or curing, or by adding chemical preservatives. That means sausage, bacon, cold cuts like pastrami and salami, hot dogs and, yes, ham.bigstock-Dinner-Festive-4350476

Why does it matter whether or not ham counts as processed meat? Because the evidence on processed meat is different than the evidence on red meat, so our recommendations are different, too.

AICR’s expert report and its updates have consistently and convincingly shown that diets high in red meat are a cause of colorectal cancer. This is why we recommend moderating red meat intake to keep it below 18 ounces (cooked) per week. In studies, consumption at or below this threshold is not associated with increased risk.

When it comes to processed meat, the evidence is just as consistent and convincing — but a good deal more stark. That’s because the evidence on processed meat suggests that no “safe threshold” exists. A modest increase in risk for colorectal cancer is seen with even occasional consumption of processed meat, and continues to rise as consumption increases. Continue reading


What’s in Your Processed Meat? Finding How it Increases Cancer Risk

If you choose to eat red and processed meats, just how often do you bite into that bologna sandwich or hot dog? What type of pork and beef do you eat? Is it low fat? What brand?

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These are the kinds of answers that studies need in order to better understand how processed meat increases the risk of cancer, says Amanda Cross, speaking at our research conference today.

Cross, a scientist at Imperial College London, noted that the research clearly shows ¬†even small amounts of processed meat — and high consumption of red meats — increase risk of colorectal cancer. A study by Cross also suggests that processed meat increases risk of lung cancer; while diets high in red meat risk increase risk for esophagus and liver cancers.

Historically, the questionnaires used in studies of dietary intake only asked a couple questions on how much red and/or processed meats people typically ate. Now the science needs more.

When it comes to processed meat, researchers are looking closely at nitrate and nitrite. These chemicals, added to many processed meats, lead to potential carcinogens known as N-nitroso compounds. For burgers and other red meats, grilling and broiling them well-done can form heterocylic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hyrdocarbons (PAHs), also potential carcinogens. Continue reading


“Unfit for Human Consumption”: Processed Meat Science vs. Spin

meat delicaciesWell, it sure got people’s attention, we’ll say that for sure. But is it accurate?

Last week a blog post from an organization called the Institute for Natural Healing picked up on one of the 10 AICR/WCRF Recommendations for the Prevention of Cancer first published back in 2007. That blog post has since gone viral (it’s been shared tens of thousands of times across many different social media platforms), and has attracted the attention of the news media, who have now approached us for comment.

Neither AICR nor our international partners, the World Cancer Research Fund, have any connection to the Institute for Natural Healing, whose website sells “natural” dietary supplements to treat conditions ranging from cancer to heart disease to male potency. (AICR/WCRF’s report and continuous updates have found that when it comes to cancer, it’s better to rely on whole diets, not dietary supplements, to reduce your risk.)

Last week’s INH blog post specifically spotlighted the AICR/WCRF recommendation to avoid processed meat (a category which includes hot dogs, sausage, bacon and cold cuts — for more information, see the AICR Blog post “What is Processed Meat, Anyway?”). That recommendation, at least, is real. It is the conclusion of an independent panel of leading scientists convened by AICR/WCRF who, following the largest, most comprehensive review of international research ever undertaken, judged the evidence that processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer to be convincing. This review was published in 2007 and was subsequently confirmed in 2011. Continue reading