Cured meats likely cause of increased leukemia incidence

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Feb 09, 2009 - Page 2

Eating too much cured meat, such as smoked pork, bacon, sausages and salted fish may increase the risk of leukemia in children, a new study has suggested.

A recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed 515 children and teenagers in Taiwan.

The results of the study showed that children who regularly consumed cured meat increased their risk of developing leukemia by as much as 74 percent, while those who had a regular intake of vegetables and soy products (such as tofu) cut their risks of leukemia by about 50 percent.

David Christiani, one of the researchers who published the study, advised parents not to let their children eat too much cured meat and fish, although it still remained to be determined whether there was a cause-and-effect link between dietary foods and leukemia, US media reported.

Leukemia refers to an abnormal proliferation of white blood cells and can be caused by various factors, including exposure to radiation, certain chemicals, viruses and genetic factors such as mutations in the DNA.

Foods are usually cured by adding salt, sugar and nitrates for preservation and flavoring.

However, the addition of nitrates, which are precursors to the chemical nitrosamine, increases the risk of cancer because nitrosamine has been known to induce the growth of cancer cells, said Lin Ja-liang (林杰樑), director of clinical toxicology at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.