NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A popular type of food many of us eat could be putting women at a higher risk for breast cancer.
It’s processed meat; anything that’s been smoked, salted, cured, dried, or canned. It has additives that are meant to preserve a meat’s flavor, color, and keep it from spoiling.
Angela Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. The 34-year-old grew up in Louisiana eating a meat heavy diet, but has since made some major changes to her lifestyle.
“After my diagnosis, it was more of a priority to incorporate more greens with every meal,” she said. “I started to cut out all processed meat.”
New research in the International Journal of Cancer suggests that the right approach. It looked at 15 previous studies and found that eating processed meats is associated with a nearly 10 percent higher breast cancer risk.
Processed meats include bacon, ham, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats. Even turkey treated with nitrates to improve flavor and preservation is included.
In 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen because studies show it can increase risk for colorectal and potentially stomach cancers. Study author Dr. Mariana Stern at USC’s Keck School of Medicine says to reduce cancer risk, you should avoid processed meats and even unprocessed red meat should be limited to about 18 ounces per week.
“(You should) limit the consumption of alcohol, and increase fruits and vegetables,” she added.
Angela is now cancer free, and is trying to convince friends and family to make changes.
“Once you get new information and knowledge, you want to share so you’re not doing the journey alone,” she said.
The study doesn’t prove that processed meat causes cancer, only that there’s an association between the two. While a 10 percent increased risk isn’t huge, it is something we can control to reduce our risk of developing cancer.
That said, the occasional hot dog or bacon strip won’t kill you.