Bacon linked to higher cancer risk


Processed meats like rashers and sausages have been linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

Eating two rashers a day can raise the risk of the pancreatic cancer by 19 per cent and the risk goes up if a person eats more, according to a new study.

Eating 50g of processed meat every day - the equivalent to one sausage or two rashers of bacon - increases the risk by 19 per cent compared to people who do not eat processed meat at all.

For people consuming double this amount of processed meat (100g), the increased risk jumps to 38 per cent, and is 57 per cent for those eating 150g a day. But experts cautioned that the overall risk of pancreatic cancer was relatively low.

Nevertheless, the disease is deadly - it is frequently diagnosed at an advanced stage and kills 80 per cent of people in under a year. Only 5 per cent of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is from researchers at the respected Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

They examined data from 11 studies, including 6,643 cases of pancreatic cancer. They found inconclusive evidence on the risks of eating red meat overall compared to eating no red meat.

They found a 29 per cent increase in pancreatic cancer risk for men eating 120g per day of red meat but no increased risk among women.

This may be because men in the study tended to eat more red meat than women.

They concluded: “Findings from this meta-analysis indicate that processed meat consumption is positively associated with pancreatic cancer risk.

“Red meat consumption was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer in men. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm these findings.”

The study adds to understanding about the risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer.

Some 400 patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Ireland every year. Most are aged over 65 and it is widely anticipated that the incidence will increase significantly over coming decades as the population ages.

Overall, smoking is thought to account for around a third of all cases of the disease, and smokers have a 74 per cent increased risk of developing it compared to non-smokers.

Associate professor Susanna Larsson, author on the study, said: “Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates.

“So as well as diagnosing it early, it’s important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease.

“If diet does affect pancreatic cancer then this could influence public health campaigns to help reduce the number of cases of this disease developing in the first place.”

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and this study may be an early indication of another factor behind the disease.

“Regardless of this latest research, we have already established a strong link between eating red and processed meat and your chances of developing bowel cancer, which is why WCRF (World Cancer Research Fund) recommends limiting intake of red meat to 500g cooked weight a week and avoid processed meat altogether.”