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Processed Meat and Cancer (Reuters Health)

Evidence continues to mount that eating a lot of hot dogs, salami or other processed meat products may raise the risk of stomach cancer. Besides salt and nitrites or nitrates, processed meats often contain cancer-causing nitrosamines, which may be responsible for the link, Swedish researchers warn.


They evaluated the risk of stomach cancer in relation to consumption of processed meat (bacon/pork, sausage/hotdogs, ham/salami); unprocessed red meat (including hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf); and poultry and fish in more than 61,000 women enrolled in a population-based Swedish study. The women provided information on their eating habits between 1987 and 1990 and again in 1997.

During the 18 years the women were followed, 156 developed stomach cancer.

In the International Journal of Cancer, Dr. Susanna C. Larsson, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and colleagues report that a high intake of processed meat, but not of unprocessed red meat, poultry or fish, was associated with a statistically higher risk of developing cancer of the stomach.

In analyses adjusted for other potential risk factors, women with the highest intake of all processed meat (3 or more servings per week) had a 66 percent higher risk of stomach cancer than women with the lowest intake of processed meat (less than 1.5 servings per week).

"Our findings," Larsson told Reuters Health, "raise the possibility that individuals may reduce their risk of stomach cancer by substituting processed meats with poultry and fish."

As mentioned, nitrosamines may be the culprit in this picture. Larsson's team found that stomach cancer risk was twofold higher among women with the highest intake of nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) when compared with those the lowest intake. NDMA is the most frequently occurring nitrosamine in foods.


  • SOURCE: International Journal of Cancer, August 15, 2006  Publish Date: August 07, 2006