Your favorite hot dogs, sausages, ham, and bacon, are all processed red meat. Red meat has been the subject of study in relation to complex health problems like Alzheimer’s disease, heart problems, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. Now a study has even linked it to colorectal cancer.
Red meat and cancer- the study and the evidence
University of Southern Californiaresearchers headed by Jane Figueiredo carried out a detailed study recently. More than 2 million genetic sequences were scrutinized to establish a link between colorectal cancer and consumption of processed and red meat.
These researchers point out those patients who already had a common gene mutation were prone to higher risk of colorectal cancer if they consumed too much red meat or processed meat. This mutation is found almost 30% of the entire population. At the same time they also found out that consuming more of vegetables, fruits and a fiber rich diet had a protective effect or lowered the risk considerably.
The explanation offered by the researchers is that when the body digests red and processed meat, the process might trigger an inflammatory response by the immune system but the gene variant present could weaken this response. It is a known fact that certain diets can influence colorectal cancer.
The biological responses to diet caused by genetic variation could be the reason behind a person’s susceptibility to carcinogens present in the food. These findings do not imply that people who did not have the gene variant could consume red and processed meats in large quantities. The researchers said that further studies can help verify how genes affect the intake of these foods and their effect on colorectal cancer risk.
Red meat and other cancers
There has been extensive research on red and processed meat consumption as well as cooking methods and how all this affects an individual’s cancer risk.
Excessive intake of red meat, cooked at high temperatures or pan-fried, is linked to prostate cancer. Processed meat consumption is also linked to bladder cancer. The risk of esophageal cancer may also go up with consumption of red and processed meat. High consumption of red meat also increases lung cancer by as much as 35%. Red meat consumption is also linked to renal cell carcinoma. Cancer risk associated with red and processed meats further increase when coupled with smoking.
Guidelines to reduce cancer risk
The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) suggests that limiting the consumption of red meat and avoiding processed meats could help reduce cancer risk. Here are their guidelines.
- 18oz a week of red meat and processed meat (cooked weight) is the safe limit for all.
- Cancer survivors must reduce their intake of red and processed meats.
- Replace red and processed meats with fish, poultryand low-fat dairy products.
- Consume nuts, legumes, whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
Try these changes, too
Apart from being cautious about your consumption of red meat, you can also try and make these changes in your diet and lifestyle to cut down on your cancer risk.
- Quit tobacco- whether you smoke or chew tobacco, quitting it is the best preventive measure you can adapt to keep cancer at bay
- Maintaining a more or less healthy weight all your life is something that all cancer experts emphasize upon, and it is not very difficult either- eat healthy food and be active.
- Limiting your alcohol consumption is also very important as excessive alcohol affects your liver function and may result in cancer
- Beware of strong UV rays- avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, especially during peak radiation hours. Cover your body well when you do need to go out and apply sunscreen liberally. Indoor tanning beds or lamps are also harmful
- When it comes to your health, don’t ignore any abnormalities that you notice. Periodic health check-ups and mammograms for women can help detect anomalies and you can avail of the appropriate treatment well in time.
Ongoing research is crucial for decoding cancer and understanding it better. To fund such research initiatives, Lungevity connects many events, such as the Breathe Deep Lake Arlington, a suburb of Chicago. These events are necessary to raise the required funds for cancer research.