Eating just two rashers of bacon or 1 sausage a day can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19% according to a new study and unfortunately the more consumed the higher the risk. However – these findings only apply to men!
The study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that eating just 50g of processed meat every day increases the risk of pancreatic cancer in men by 19% compared to men who do not eat processed meat at all, but, perhaps more worryingly for men, consuming double this amount risk jumps to 38%, and is a staggering 57% for those eating 150g a day. To put that into perspective, consuming a sausage bap for breakfast (with the usual 2-3 sausages they contain), and a large ham sandwich for lunch could be the fast track to this deadly disease – and who doesn’t know at least one man who enjoys this type of daily diet!
Interestingly – the same study found that red meat consumption does not appear to hold the same risks of pancreatic cancer in women. This could be due to a number of factors including genetics, lifestyle and other dietary factors and more research needs to be done. However, perhaps one key reason is that women would generally tend to consume smaller portions of red meat but are also more likely to tuck into vegetable side dishes. These vegetables contain antioxidant phytonutrients, which may help protect against the adverse effects of the meat. Ketchup does not count boys!
This new research comes on the back of previous studies that have already established a strong link between eating processed meat and increased risk of bowel cancer. Therefore major agencies already recommend limiting overall red meat intake, and more particularly processed meat intake. However, as ever it is important to look at the bigger picture and often it is not necessary to condemn yourself to a life without bacon. Have a little bit of what you fancy but have it with the veggie accompaniments you always try to avoid. A bit of lettuce, tomato and cucumber in your sandwich won’t kill you….but not having it might!
In fact, one of the largest scale studies of its kind conducted by the University of California has found that eating lots of fruits and vegetables (particularly vegetables) is associated with an approximate 50% reduction in the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The vegetables most strongly associated with increased protection were onions, garlic, beans, yellow vegetables (such as carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, corn and yellow squash), dark leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. Light-green vegetables, tomatoes and tomato products showed weaker protective benefits. Fruits were found to be protective but significantly less so than vegetables, with citrus fruits and citrus juices most protective.
So why should this news convince you or the men in your life to ditch the breakfast bap? The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that performs two main functions: it makes insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, and it makes enzymes, which help break down proteins. Pancreatic cancer affects one in 77 men and one in 79 women. It is not the most common cancer, but it is deadly and frequently only diagnosed at an advanced stage. To help kick that bacon sandwich obsession, just consider that this disease has very poor survival rates killing 80% of sufferers in under a year, and only 5% of patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.
Detecting Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatic cancer is often very difficult to detect in in its early stages (a key reason for its low survival rates). However as it spreads to other essential organs inside the abdomen, signs and symptoms may include:
As ever, this just demonstrates how key it is to get a regular health MOT to help detect such diseases where symptoms may not be present. Early detection in this case really can be a lifesaver, so don’t wait for symptoms to develop before checking your health with a GP and certainly do not wait to have symptoms investigated if they are already present.
Is Your Morning Bacon Sandwich Killing You? By Suzanne Laurie, Academic Director