Pack of bacon a week increases risk of bowel cancer by a fifth, study claims
BACON and sausages fuel cancer twice as much as previously thought, a study suggests.
Just 25g of processed meat daily – equal to one rasher or 2/3 of a banger – raises the risk of bowel tumours by a fifth.
The World Health Organisation ranked the meat alongside fags in 2015 when it classified it “carcinogenic to humans”.
They warned 50g of processed meat a day – two rashers or 1½ bangers – increased the risk of bowel cancer by 18 per cent.
But researchers from the University of Oxford now say a mere 25g each day is enough to raise the risk by 20 per cent.
They analysed the diets of half a million Brits aged 40 to 69 and followed them for an average of almost six years.
“Our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today
During this time, 2,609 developed bowel cancer.
Those who ate 76g of red and processed meat a day had a 20 per cent higher risk of the disease than those who ate only 21g.
The risk of bowel cancer rose by 20 per cent with every 25g of processed meat people ate each day.
And it rose by 19 per cent with every 50g of red meat they ate daily – equal to a thick slice of roast beef or the edible bit of a lamb chop.
Fibre cuts cancer risk
Department of Health guidelines suggest people cut back to 70g of red and processed meat each day if they are eating more than 90g.
Prof Tim Key said: “Most previous research looked at people in the 1990s or earlier and diets have changed significantly since then.
“Our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today.”
Dr Julie Sharp, from Cancer Research UK, said: “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.”
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 Lisa Wilde, director of research at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “The findings underline the importance of cutting back on these foods as part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
"Making simple changes to your lifestyle can help stack the odds against bowel cancer.
"As well as avoiding processed foods, like bacon, ham and salami and limiting our intake of red meat, increasing our intake of wholegrains and pulses, being of a healthy weight, cutting down on alcohol, taking more exercise, and stopping smoking will make a real difference to our health in general.”
The study also found that eating fibre in breakfast cereals and bread cut the risk of bowel cancer but alcohol increased the risk.
Know the signs
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with almost 42,000 people diagnosed every year.
Knowing the early warning signs can save lives – catch the disease at stage 1 and 97 per cent of people live five years or longer.
But catch it at stage 4 – when it's already spread – and that survival rate plummets to just seven per cent.
That's why The Sun launched the No Time 2 Lose campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of bowel cancer – and to break down the poo taboo, and get everyone talking and thinking about their insides.
We also called for screening to start at 50 not 60, as is currently the case and in August Matt Hancock, health secretary announced it would happen.
Around 42,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK each year and 16,000 die from it.
One in 15 men and one in 18 women born after 1960 in the UK will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime.
The findings are published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
THERE'S NO TIME 2 LOSE
THE Sun's No Time 2 Lose campaign aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
And it called on the Government to lower the screening age from 60 to 50 – to bring it in line with Scotland.
Last summer, the health secretary Matt Hancock listened and agreed to start bowel cancer screening at 50 – meaning everyone in England will get a test on their 50th birthday.
A date for the roll out of screening at 50 has yet to be announced.
But the move could save more than 4,500 lives a year, experts say.
Bowel cancer is the second deadliest form of the disease, but it can be cured if it's caught early – or better still prevented.
Caught at stage 1 – the earliest stage – patients have a 97 per cent chance of living for five years or longer.
But catch it at stage 4 – when it's already spread – and that chance plummets to just seven per cent.
Last April, Lauren Backler, whose mum died of the disease at the age of 55, joined forces with The Sun to launch the No Time 2 Lose campaign, also supported by Bowel Cancer UK.
Lauren delivered a petition to the Department of Health complete with almost 450,000 signatures, to put pressure on the Government to change the screening age – a move that could save the NHS millions.
She believes her mum could have been saved if screening had been available – and now campaigns to ensure others don't lose their loved ones to this potentially curable disease.
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