Health Check: Does Processed Meat Cause Bowel Cancer?

Provides funding as a Member of TheConversation. Where experts find jobs Processed meats and large quantities of cooked red meats (more than 500g a week) increase your risk of bowel cancer. Flickr/Pabo76 Each year around 14,400 Australians are diagnosed with bowel (colon and rectal) cancer. Its the second most common newly diagnosed cancer after lung cancer and claims around 3,980 lives a year. The good news is that bowel cancer has a high cure rate if detected early. And there is convincing evidence that you can reduce your risk of it by regularly eating foods that are high in dietary fibre, such as wholegrains, legumes, pulses, high fibre cereals, vegetables and fruit. In fact, for every ten grams of fibre you consume per day, your risk reduces by 10%. Being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day also decreases your risk of bowel cancer. But the other side of the risk equation is bad news for those who love a good deli meat: the regular consumption of processed meat increases your chances of getting bowel cancer. What does the evidence say? Red meat contains important nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc, vitamins B12, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. But there is convincing evidence that eating more than 500 grams of cooked meat per week is risky. The latest World Cancer Research Fund meta-analysis of 12 separate studies indicates that for every 100 gram increase in red meat a day there is a 17% increase in bowel cancer risk. For processed meat, there appears to be no completely safe level of intake, with a meta-analysis of 13 studies finding an 18% increase in bowel cancer risk for every 50-gram increase in daily intake. How much do we eat?

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