Does Your Daily Slice of Bacon With A Sausage Cause Pancreatic Cancer

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The thought that part of the British Breakfast may be nibbling away at our pancreatic cells integrity is bound to put a shock wave through households across the country – or is it? We as a nation along with most other advanced nations consider that our diet is no one else’s business and that eating processed meats is a perfectly acceptable part of the daily diet, despite long term questions about their health risks.

Processed meats such as sausage, bacon, and cold cuts may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer, but only slightly, researchers found. For every 50-gram serving of processed meat per day — a couple of slices of ham, for instance — relative risk of the disease rose by 19%, – is that a modest risk increase? I know that if I had a 20% reduction in risk, that I would be feeling quite smug, so why should we regard a 20% increase as ‘slight’. Red meat also posed a 29% greater relative risk of pancreatic cancer to men, they found.[1]

Obviously the word relative is key, as pancreatic cancer is comparatively rare, but it is also the most aggressive and has the highest rate of death linked to it and is the fourth most frequent cause of cancer death in males and females.

The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 11 studies totaling more than two million patients, 6,643 of whom had pancreatic cancer.

The scientists found that eating at least 120 grams per day of red meat — determined to be a “standard” serving — was associated with a 13% increased relative risk of the disease, but it wasn’t significant, and there was major heterogeneity between studies (P<0.001).

However, when those findings were assessed by subgroup, that serving of red meat was associated with an almost 30% increased risk of pancreatic cancer in men (RR 1.29, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.53), and there wasn’t significant heterogeneity between studies.

Interestingly red meat didn’t raise the risk of pancreatic cancer in women, and as we know men generally eat more red meat. This might mean that the link is between the big red meat eaters and pancreatic cancer risk.

Processed meat, on the other hand, was associated with a significant increase in pancreatic cancer risk all around. For every daily 50-gram standard serving, relative risk of the disease rose 19% (95% CI 1.04 to 1.36). Again, there wasn’t significant heterogeneity between studies.

That increase is likely related to the nitrites and N-nitroso compounds found in processed meats, which have been shown to be carcinogenic and to induce pancreatic cancer in animal models.[2]

References


[1] Larsson SC, Wolk A. Red and processed meat consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer: meta-analysis of prospective studies. Br J Cancer. 2012 Jan 12. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2011.585. [Epub ahead of print] View Full Paper

[2] Risch HA (2003) Etiology of pancreatic cancer, with a hypothesis concerning the role of N-nitroso compounds and excess gastric acidity. J Natl Cancer Inst 95(13): 948–960 View Full Paper

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • “We as a nation along with most other advanced nations consider that our diet is no one else’s business and that eating processed meats is a perfectly acceptable part of the daily diet, despite long term questions about their health risks”. – THAT’S the shocking part!

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