Increased risk of breast cancer linked to processed meat.

Research has found women who ate high levels of processed meat had a 9% increased risk of the cancer compared with those who ate little of it, according to a study just published in the International Journal of Cancer.

This research also supports finding by the World Health Organization (WHO) that says processed meat is carcinogenic.  Processed meat has been modified to either extend its shelf life or change the taste, usually by smoking, curing, or adding salt or preservatives to meat. This includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef and ham.

This study, which included data on more than a million women, shows a link between processed meat consumption and breast cancer risk, however most of the studies used in this analysis are observational so they cannot prove cause and effect. Further, the 15 studies involved have different definitions of the highest consumptions. For example, one of the UK studies in the review classed high consumption as more than 9g a day – the equivalent of just two or three rashers a week, while in others it was much higher.

With the research relying on people remembering what and how much they ate, further investigations are warranted to better understand the links between processed meat and cancer and see whether the associated risk might be reduced.

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