Caution urged over bacon cancer study

Pig industry advisers have urged caution over a study linking high bacon consumption to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The Swedish study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, analysed 11 studies involving 6,643 pancreatic cancer cases.

Lifestyle questionnaires were used to find differences between patients with a particular disease and a control population without the disease.

The findings suggest eating 50g of processed meat every day increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19%, compared to people who eat no processed meat.

Eating 50g of processed meat is equivalent to consuming two rashers of bacon.

The increased risk rises to 38% for people who eat 100g of processed meat daily and 57% for those eating 150g a day.

The overall risk of pancreatic cancer is relatively low, however.

Experts say one in 77 men and one in 79 women can expect to develop the disease during their lifetime.

Caution over the findings was urged by Carrie Ruxton, a nutritionist on the Meat Advisory Panel, which advises livestock sector bodies BPEX and EBLEX.

“I am always cautious about drawing conclusions from these types of studies because they do not properly control for other factors which influence the cancer risk.”

NHS Choices states that the causes of pancreatic cancer are “not yet fully understood” but may include age, smoking, blood group and inherited genes.

Dr Ruxton said it was often difficult to pinpoint exactly caused cancer.

“We need better controlled studies to do this,” she added.

The UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recommends that people limit intakes of red and processed meat intake to 70g daily.

Nine of out 10 women, and six out of 10 men, are already eating recommended levels of red meat.

“The occasional bacon buttie won’t do you any harm, provided it is eaten as part of an overall balanced diet,” said Dr Ruxton.

“It is also worth noting that red meat contains a number of potential anti-cancer nutrients, such as folate, selenium and vitamins D and E.”

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