The old phrase “better safe than sorry” comes to mind when considering how red and processed meats can increase your colorectal cancer risk by 20%.
Unfortunately, the latest statistics and studies seem to increasingly indicate that this statement is true.
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths in both the US and UK. In addition, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that in 2019 there will be over 102,000 new cases of colon cancer and 44,000 new cases of rectal cancer. They also predict that upwards of 51,000 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2019.
Even as an estimate, this amount is far too many cancer cases and deaths. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce your risks!
The ACS also states that the US death rates have been dropping in the last few decades. This is due to the increased number of screenings which find precancerous polyps and treat any cancers early. The only other change is that cases of those under the age of 55 has increased by 1%.
There continues to be mounting evidence that consuming too much red and processed meats increases your risk of colorectal cancer significantly. So, why do scientists think these facts are becoming more conclusive? The chemicals formed in our body as we digest red and processed meats damage the cells that line the bowel could be one answer.
If you want to be “safe,” you might want to eliminate or only occasionally eat processed meats. Hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami, and ham all represent these kind of meats. They contain nitrates, saturated fats, and lots of salt that are each added to these foods during processing. The risk of developing colorectal cancer is even higher than 20% with every additional 25 grams of processed food that you consume, which happens to be equal to one slice of bacon.
By comparison, lean red meats contain protein, Vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. With every 50 grams of lean red meat (equal to a thick slice of roast beef) the risk becomes 19% higher. You could conclude that a small amount of processed meat is as dangerous as a larger amount of red meat. That doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat lots of red meat. In fact, it is best to cut back on eating red meat to twice a week. The more you can cut back, the lower your risk.
There are many risk factors that contribute to all cancers. For colorectal cancer specifically, lifestyle risks include smoking, being overweight or obese with a large waistline, little activity and exercise, and drinking excessively. These are all things within your control just like how much red and processed meats you consume.
The other risks like age, family history, and a number of other factors are not within your ability to control.
There is no reason to give up absolutely all lean red meats, but instead you should simply limit the amount that you consume. Avoiding processed foods should be a priority though, and the less that you eat, the better for your general health!
Contact Surgical Consultants of Northern Virginia today to discuss other ways you can limit your risk for colorectal cancer, such as scheduling your regular colorectal screening.
As always if you have any further questions, contact us today!