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Public unaware of link between processed meat and bowel cancer

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by In collaboration with PA Media Group | News

1 April 2008

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A cancer expert has warned that many people do not know about the link between eating processed meats and bowel cancer, despite there being ‘convincing’ evidence.

A report published last year by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) found that eating 50g a day of processed meat – such as bacon, sausages and ham – increases the risk of bowel cancer by around 20 per cent.

However, the organisation’s medical and scientific adviser, Professor Martin Wiseman, said that more than two thirds of Britons are still unaware of the link and of the WCRF’s advice that people concerned about their bowel cancer risk should aim to eat as little processed meat as possible.

Speaking ahead of Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, he said: “We are more sure now than ever before that eating processed meat increases your risk of bowel cancer”.

Professor Wiseman said that people can make a “positive difference” by cutting processed meats out of their diet as far as possible.

“It is not a case of all or nothing,” he noted, ” but we need to do more to get this message across because if two thirds of people don’t know about the link between processed meat and bowel cancer, then they are not in a position to be able to make informed decisions about whether to eat it or not.”

Red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, has also been linked to bowel cancer, although experts recommend eating these in moderation (less than 50g a day) as they contain important nutrients.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said: “Many scientific studies have found that bowel cancer is more common among people who eat lots of red and processed meat.

“Studies like this look at the dietary habits of large numbers of people, so they tell us about the population as a whole. This makes it difficult to predict what the risk is to an individual person, but if anyone is looking to reduce their risk of bowel cancer, moderating the amount of red and processed meat they eat is a good way to start.

“It’s also important to remember that many other parts of your diet and wider lifestyle can affect the risk of bowel cancer – and this along with the genes you inherit will also affect your cancer risk,” she added.