Processed red meat tagged as possible cause of cancer

Mon Aug 2, 2010 7:23pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Red meat is back under the spotlight as a possible cause of cancer with a U.S. study finding the chemicals that paint hot dogs pink and preserve cold cuts could also raise the risk of bladder cancer.

Researchers led by Dr Amanda Cross of the National Cancer Institute point a tentative finger at nitrites and nitrates -- compounds added to meat for preservation, color and flavor -- but note that more research is needed to confirm the blame.

They said during the cooking process, nitrites and nitrates combine with other chemicals that are naturally present in meat to form potentially cancer-causing N-nitroso compounds, which may then be excreted through the urinary tract where they can contact the lining of the bladder.

"We investigated whether compounds found in meat, formed either during the meat cooking process -- heterocyclic amines or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons -- or during meat preservation -- nitrates and nitrites -- were associated with bladder cancer," Cross told Reuters Health.

For the study, Cross and her colleagues used information from a study begun in 1995 which followed 300,933 older men and women from across the United States.

Participants filled out questionnaires on the meat they consumed as well as how it was prepared and cooked. The researchers then matched this data to laboratory-measured meat components.

During the 7-year study, a total of 854 participants (less than 0.3 percent) were diagnosed with bladder cancer.

The team researchers found the top fifth of participants in terms of processed red meat consumption had about a 30 percent greater risk of being diagnosed with bladder cancer than those whose consumption ranked in the bottom fifth.

Further, people whose diets included the most nitrites from all sources (not just meat), and those whose diets had the largest amount of nitrate plus nitrite from processed meats, were also nearly a third more likely to develop bladder cancer than people in the bottom fifth for consumption of these compounds.   Continued...

<p>Hot dogs are stacked up before the start of Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest in the Coney Island section of New York July 4, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>