Study: Not All Processed Meat has the Same Cancer Risk

A study published in the journal Nutrients has questioned the World Health Organisation’s blanket classification of processed meat as carcinogenic.

Researchers say they have identified gaps between processed meat treated with nitrates and those that are not.

Dr Brian Green, Dr William Crowe and Professor Chris Elliott, from the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University, Belfast, reviewed all recent, English-language studies into consumption of processed meat and cancer risk.

They said the results were inconclusive with around half the studies indicating a link with colorectal cancer (CRC).

The researchers added this may explain the appearance of contradictory claims in recent years.

However, when studies which only tested the consumption of processed meat containing sodium nitrite – a preservative used to extend shelf life and enhance colour – were isolated, scientists found evidence the link to CRC jumped from half to just under two-thirds (65%).

Dr Crowe said: “When we looked at nitrite-containing processed meat in isolation – which is the first time this has been done in a comprehensive study – the results were much clearer.”

In 2015 the WHO classified all processed meat as a carcinogen – including bacon, sausages and ham as well as continental European products like prosciutto and salami.

However, not all processed meat contains nitrates.

For example, British and Irish sausages are not processed with nitrites even though many of the European and US sausage equivalents are, such as frankfurters, pepperoni and chorizo.

Some retailers in the UK are already selling new types of bacon and ham that have been processed without nitrites.

The IGFS researchers now believe there is a need to define the health risk of both types of processed meat separately.

Co-author Professor Elliott, who carried out the UK Government’s inquiry into food safety after the horsemeat scandal, said the study brought more clarity to what has been a confusing area for the food industry and the public.

He explained: “Because there have been conflicting claims in the scientific community and the media about which types of meat may be carcinogenic, this study couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It brings much-needed rigour and clarity and points the way for further research in this area.”

Lead author Dr Green added: “It’s important we eat a healthy, balanced diet in line with the government’s ‘Eatwell Guide’.

“The current Department of Health guidance advises the public to consume no more than 70g of red or processed meat per day.

“That remains the guidance, but we hope that future research investigating the link between diet and CRC will consider each type of meat individually rather than grouping them together.

“Our findings clearly show that not all processed meats, for example, carry the same level of risk.”

The scientists say more research is needed before they can definitively prove causality regarding processed meat and cancer.

“But based on our study, which we believe provides the most thorough review of the evidence on nitrites to date, what we can confidently say is that a strong link exists between nitrite-containing processed meat, such as frankfurters, and CRC,” Dr Green concluded.

Source: Irish News

Chicken Meatballs with Peppers and Spinach


450 g ground chicken
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
3/8 cup jarred basil pesto
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 sweet yellow pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed or finely grated
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bunches spinach (about 400 g total), trimmed


  1. In large bowl, mix together chicken, bread crumbs, 1/4cup of the pesto and the salt (if using).
  2. Firmly roll by 1 tbsp into balls. In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add meatballs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add yellow pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are no longer pink inside, 3 to 6 minutes.
  4. Transfer meatballs and yellow pepper to separate plates.
  5. In same skillet, add remaining pesto, the garlic, lemon juice and pepper. Add half of the spinach. Cover and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Stir, add remaining spinach, cover and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Uncover, stir and continue cooking until spinach is wilted.
  8. Add meatballs and yellow pepper, stir to combine. Stir in lemon zest. Serve with pasta.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Mediterranean Flavours

In Pictures: Food of New Restaurants in America

Low-dose Aspirin Linked to Reduced Liver Cancer Risk

Among adults at high risk of liver cancer, those who took low-dose aspirin were less likely to develop the disease or to die from liver-related causes. The findings come from an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by a team led by investigators at the Karolinska Institutet, in Sweden, and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

“Rates of liver cancer and of mortality from liver disease are rising at an alarming pace in U.S. and European countries. Despite this, there remain no established treatments to prevent the development of liver cancer, or to reduce the risk of liver-related death,” said lead author Tracey Simon, MD, MPH, investigator in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at MGH.

For the analysis, investigators examined information from Swedish registries on 50,275 adults who had chronic viral hepatitis, a type of liver infection that is caused by the hepatitis B or C virus and is the most common risk factor for liver cancer. Over a median follow-up of nearly 8 years, 4.0% of patients who took low-dose aspirin (less than 163mg/day) and 8.3% of nonusers of aspirin developed liver cancer. Aspirin users had a 31% lower relative risk of developing liver cancer.

Importantly, the study showed that the longer a person took low-dose aspirin, the greater the benefit. Compared with short-term use (3 months to 1 year), the risk of liver cancer was 10% lower for 1-3 years of use, 34% lower for 3-5 years of use, and 43% lower for 5 or more years of use.

Also, liver-related deaths occurred in 11.0% of aspirin users compared with 17.9% of nonusers over 10 years, for a 27% lower risk.

The benefits were seen regardless of sex, severity of hepatitis, or type of hepatitis virus (B or C). The risk of internal bleeding–a concern when taking aspirin long-term–was not significantly elevated among aspirin users.

“This is the first large-scale, nationwide study to demonstrate that the use of aspirin is associated with a significantly reduced long-term risk of liver cancer and liver-related mortality,” said senior author Jonas F. Ludvigsson, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet.?

The investigators noted that prospective randomized controlled trials are needed to test the benefits of aspirin for patients affected by liver disease.

Source: EurekAlert!

Study: Prostate Cancer Leaves Detectable ‘Fingerprint’ in Blood

A test that can detect the genetic “fingerprint” of prostate cancer in blood could improve diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of the disease, researchers say.

The test checks for prostate cancer DNA in blood in order to provide the earliest evidence that prostate cancer is active.

This could help doctors monitor tumor behavior, determine if cancer has spread (“metastasized”) and choose the most appropriate treatment, according to the team at University College London Cancer Institute in the United Kingdom.

The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The next step is to assess whether this test could be used along with, or replace, the current prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, according to the study authors.

“Metastatic prostate cancer — the most dangerous late stage of the disease — can vary substantially in its treatment response and clinical progression,” lead author Dr. Anjui Wu said in a college news release.

“We urgently need biomarkers that will help us determine how far along each patient’s cancer is, to determine the best course of treatment,” he explained.

Corresponding author Gerhardt Attard, a professor at the institute, said researchers are testing the technique in a patient trial. The aim is to see if it can complement or replace the PSA test.

“We believe the increased sensitivity and additional information we derive will significantly improve the outcomes of men with advanced prostate cancer,” Attard added in the news release.

Mark Emberton, dean of the faculty of medical sciences, said “liquid biopsies” have shown great potential to improve diagnosis and management of cancer patients.

“This test could be the first to tell us cancer has got into blood before the spread is large enough to see on imaging,” Emberton said. “This could allow targeting of treatment for men at the highest risk of prostate cancer spread.”

Source: HealthDay

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