The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared processed meat and red meat as carcinogens. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavour it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking. A study found that eating 50 grams of processed meat every day increased the risk of colorectal cancer by 18%.
When a chemical in red meat called haem is broken down in the gut, N-nitroso chemicals are formed and these have been found to damage the cells that line the bowel, which can lead to bowel cancer. These same chemicals also form when processed meat is digested. In addition, the nitrite and nitrate preservatives used to preserve processed meat produce these N-nitroso chemicals and can lead to bowel cancer.
Avoiding tobacco, getting to and staying at a healthy weight, getting regular physical activity, limiting alcohol and processed meat can help people lower their risk of getting many types of cancer.
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