Even moderate amounts of bacon and red meat linked to bowel cancer

Even moderate amounts of ham, bacon and and red meat are linked to bowel cancer, experts have warned.

People who stick to NHS guidelines on red and processed meat consumption still increase their risk of bowel cancer by a fifth compared with those who eat very small amounts, a study part-funded by Cancer Research UK found.

The Department of Health said that while meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, people should cut their intake of red and processed meat to about 70g per day, which is the average daily consumption in the UK.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said there is strong evidence that eating processed meat (such as salami, bacon and ham) is a cause of bowel cancer, while eating a lot of red meat (such as beef, lamb or pork) also increases the risk.

For the new study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, experts examined data from 475,581 people aged 40 to 69 at the start of the study and followed them for an average of 5.7 years.

During this time, 2,609 people developed bowel cancer.

The study found that people consuming an average of 76g per day of red and processed meat had a 20% higher risk of bowel cancer compared with those who ate 21g per day.

For red meat only, the risk was 15% higher for people who ate 54g per day (about one thick slice of roast beef or one lamb chop) on average compared with those who had 8g per day.

For processed meat only, the risk was 19% higher for those who had an average of 29g per day (about one rasher of bacon or a slice of ham) compared with those who had an average of 5g per day.

There was some good news however, with those people having a high intake of fibre from bread and breakfast cereals lowering their risk of bowel cancer by 14%.

Around one in every 15 men and one in every 18 women will develop bowel cancer during their lifetime.

Cancer Research UK’s expert in diet and cancer, Professor Tim Key, who co-authored the study and is deputy director at the University of Oxford’s cancer epidemiology unit, said: “Our results strongly suggest that people who eat red and processed meat four or more times a week have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer than those who eat red and processed meat less than twice a week.

“There’s substantial evidence that red and processed meat are linked to bowel cancer, and the World Health Organisation classifies processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic.

“Most previous research looked at people in the 1990s or earlier, and diets have changed significantly since then, so our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today.”

Existing evidence points to an increased bowel cancer risk for every 50g of processed meat a person eats per day, but the new study found that risk increases at just 25g per day.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said: “The Government guidelines on red and processed meat are general health advice and this study is a reminder that the more you can cut down beyond this, the more you can lower your chances of developing bowel cancer.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out red and processed meat entirely, but you may want to think about simple ways to reduce how much you have and how often.

“Although breaking habits we’ve had for a long time can be hard, it’s never too late to make healthy changes to our diet.

“You could try doing meat-free Mondays, looking for recipes using fresh chicken and fish, or swapping meat for pulses like beans and lentils in your usual meals.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England (PHE), said: “Our surveys show that many people consume too much red and processed meat.”

She said reducing the amount of red and processed meat eaten regularly could also cut salt and saturated fat in the diet and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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15th Apr 2021
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This is bad news for Golf Clubs, I am told that there is a ritual of start and finish with a bacon butty !!!
8th Apr 2021
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Having been in farming and raised tens of thousands of pigs and similar numbers of sheep and cattle according to EU standards I'm more concerned with the quality of the meat.

The things we would pump into pigs and cattle - growth promoters, iron and so many antibiotics - there's little wonder people are getting stomach troubles.

Perhaps I should mention here, pigs and cattle are not fed their natural diet but barley in one form or another. The poor beggars are anaemic at birth - a piglet requires 2cc iron sulphate injection within hours of birth. Cattle should graze pastures but most will never see a blade of grass.

Perhaps our wonderful experts should start looking at the way animals are read first before they pronounce of a bacon sarnie!
9th Apr 2021
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Hello Lionel
Me thinks that most members of the public would be shocked if they were to open a vets bag nowadays. Quicker fattening up feed laced with drugs seems to be the norm.
No wonder round here most of the farms stick to BOB its safer and less bother.
9th Apr 2021
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You're quite right Viking. A beef animal needs three and a half years on grass to reach full maturity. In my day farming we did the same thing in nine months using growth promoter cartridges in the ear cartridge and in the feed. These hormones pass into the meat and of course into the muck; spread that stuff, also laced with massive quantities of antibiotics, on the ground and grow maize for silage and the cycle is complete. I doubt anyone expert knows just how much growth hormone or antibiotic is in any one animal.

Please understand I'm not alleging what is commonly known as animal cruelty, no, but after many years with livestock I've got to question these very dubious methods.
10th Apr 2021
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Yes agree Lionel
If an " expert " were to give the findings in public on how much growth hormones or steroids were in any one animal, it would probably decimate the whole industry . In the meantime unfortunately the NHS is left to sort out the end problem.
10th Apr 2021
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We're exposing the tip of the iceberg, Viking. This principle of interfering with natural processes is having repercussions throughout western culture. The Pill, for example; female hormones have been excreted into our water system for almost 60 years. And we wonder at the feminising of young men?

Farmers have been applying nitrated to the soil since before WW2. Result, the nations water needed to be treated and piped by the mid fifties. Today our piped water is laden with nitrates, male and female hormones and additives such as fluoride.

Our food bears little resemblance to that our grand parents ate; my grand mother was a cook in a stately home. She taught me about food.

Little wonder I'm extremely cautious of 'progress.'
28th Apr 2019
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I have just been diagnosed with Cancer of the Bowel, in the descending Colon, after sending off my postal Testing Kit again. I've had a CT scan with contrast (Dye) and am now waiting to hear if my Cancer is contained. I am a Vegetarian and have been for approx. 50 years, but I am over-weight, and lead a sedentary lifestyle unfortunately due to Peripheral Neuropathy and Arthritis. I'm not Diabetic either by the way. PLEASE take advantages of any tests available. Just to say I also intend to take a "pure" cannabis oil.
11th Apr 2021
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Hazel, so sorry to hear that. I too have been a vegetarian for several decades and I'm living proof that "going veggie" does NOT guarantee a long and healthy life! I stopped eating meat & fish because I've always hated the notion of eating corpses. As soon as I left home (away from mum's sausages, bacon & lard-fried bread!) I simply stopped eating what I didn't like. Then I started learning about animal husbandry & feeding methods and I defy anyone who knows about all that stuff to continue pushing the results down their throats! I also worked for a chemicals company for a time (don't even ask, I was desperate for a job at the time) and it doesn't surprise me in the least that processed meats are linked to cancer. Just reading the Hazardous Substances information on the process chemicals (additives which aid the manufacturing process) will make you run screaming out of the butcher's shop! OK, rant over. Hope all goes well for you, Hazel, and all others who are collateral damage in the war for profits.
25th Apr 2019
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We do not eat much bacon or sausages but it is a worrying fact
21st Apr 2019
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The government report has a whiff of scaremongering about it. There's somewhere around a 4% chance of contracting bowel cancer so a 20% increase only takes that up to less than a 5% chance.

Worth it for the lovely taste of a bacon roll, if you ask me.

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