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Bacon and Sausage Linked To Increased Cancer Risk
A new study suggests that eating a single serving of processed meat such as bacon or sausage each day might increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by 19%. However, it should be noted that your overall risk of developing pancreatic cancer, regardless of processed meat consumption, is very low. Awareness and caution of this potential cancer link is warranted and encouraged. Ultimately, regardless of the cancer risk, reducing the amount of processed meat in your diet may be a healthy move since these meats tend to contain higher levels of unhealthy fats (contributes to heart disease) and sodium levels (contributes to high blood pressure and exacerbations of pre-existing heart failure).
These results were obtained from research completed by Swedish researchers who published a review in the British Journal of Cancer after analyzing seven prior studies for a connection between processed meats and pancreatic cancer. Their research found that the relative risk of pancreatic cancer was 19 percent higher among men and women who consumed approximately 4oz of processed meat each day. In perspective, that is roughly a single sausage link or approximately four pieces of bacon. The authors suspect the increased risk may result from nitrites, which are chemical preservatives used in processed meats.
At this point, it is worth noting how the 19% increased risk was obtained. The most often cited percent value that is published in the lay media is a calculated value known as the “relative risk.” Right now, your lifetime risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 1.4%. In the study, it was found that if you consume a single serving of processed meat each day, your lifetime risk was increased to a paltry 1.7%. Thus, your “relative risk” of developing pancreatic cancer is 1 – 1.4% / 1.7% (divide each by 100 to convert % into decimal first) = ~18-19%. However, this is all “relative.” In reality, out of 100,000 people who didn’t eat processed meat, you would expect 1,400 to develop pancreatic cancer. If you had 100,000 people who ate processed meat, the study suggests you would find that 1,700 people would develop pancreatic cancer. This is an increase of 300 people out of 100,000 individuals, or roughly a percentage increase of 1.7%-1.4% = o.3%. This value is known as the “absolute risk.” In reality, the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases your absolute risk by a mere 0.3%. Are you impressed by the results of this study? We’re not.
However, given that processed meats have also been linked to colon and bladder cancer, and given their high salt and fat content, we think it would be wise to consider reducing and or removing processed meats from your diet. However, we want to urge against a health scare regarding pancreatic cancer risk, since the absolute risk is very minimal.
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