Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Doctor explains meat-cancer relationship

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A local physician urged consumers to eat processed meat in moderation, but not to panic after the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the WHO, on Monday classified processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans,” and said that eating 50 grams of it every day can increase the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

A document released by the France-based agency said the decision was made by a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by its Monographs Program, after thoroughly reviewing accumulated scientific literature — more than 800 studies that investigated the associations with more than a dozen types of cancer, including large prospective cohort studies conducted over the past 20 years.

“Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer,” it says, adding that “associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.”

Processed meat refers to meat that has been salted, cured, fermented, smoked or processed in other ways, and examples include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, and biltong or beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.

“The consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect,” it says.

Red meat includes beef, pork, mutton, lamb, veal, horse and goat, it says.

Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital department of clinical toxicology director Yen Tsung-hai (顏宗海) said: “Of course we know that it is better not to eat too much processed meats, because they might contain nitrates that can transform into nitrosamine in the body, increasing the risk of cancer.”

He said people should not eat processed meat with amine-rich foods, such as scallops, pacific saury and squid, because nitrosamine can form when nitrate and amine-rich foods are consumed together.

However, the public should not panic over the warning, he said.

“I think a balanced diet without excessive consumption is the most important thing,” Yen said, adding that it is advisable “for adults to eat less than 500 grams of red meat per week, or less then 70 grams per day.”

Health Promotion Administration Director-General Chiou Shu-ti (邱淑媞) said people can reduce the consumption of meals containing bacon, sausages, hamburger meat and other processed meat and replace them with fish or lean chicken.

She said people aged between 50 and 74 can get a free government-funded fecal immunochemical test every two years to screen for colon cancer.

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