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Meat increases risk of bladder cancer by a third

Additives in processed meat could increase risk of bladder cancer by 30 percent, says a new study.

Avid lovers of processed meat such as sausages, bacon and packaged ham run a 30 percent increased risk of developing bladder cancer, researchers warn.

Sodium nitrite and nitrate, salts added during meat processing, react with stomach acid to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds, researchers say.

“Nitrate and nitrite are precursors to N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which induce tumours in many organs, including the bladder, in multiple animal species,” the findings published in the online edition of the journal Cancer read.

Details of the study
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville enrolled 300,000 men and women hailing from eight US states. The participants were aged between 50 to 71 years.

“Our findings highlight the importance of studying meat-related compounds to better understand the association between meat and cancer risk,” Dr Amanda Cross, study’s lead author, said.

At the start of the study in 1995, participants were required to fill-in questionnaires on the types of meat they ate detailing its recipe and preparation style.

The participants were monitored for a span of eight years.

During eight year follow-up, 854 cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed.

Comparisons of diet and cancer diagnoses revealed that participants whose diets were high in nitrates and nitrites, had a 30 percent greater risk of developing bladder cancer than those who consumed the lowest amount of either compound.

Though the exact reason behind the heightened bladder cancer risk is not clear, researchers believe that the compounds present in red meat react with stomach acid to form carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds during digestion.

“Our findings highlight the importance of studying meat-related compounds to better understand the association between meat and cancer risk,” Dr Amanda Cross, study’s lead author, said.

Other possible causes
As the most avid lovers of red meat in the study were reportedly the youngest, least educated and least physically active, researchers are yet to establish the exact cause fueling the cancer.

Also, meat lovers were taking in the least dietary intake of fruits, vegetable, and vitamins C and E than those who consumed red meat in low quantities. They were more likely to be non-Hispanic white, habitual smokers and with a higher than normal BMI, researcher said.

Further studies are called for to establish the link between chemical additives in processed meat and cancer, Cross said.

Meat linked to other diseases
Meat has already been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, including cancer of the pancreas.

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford last year, abstaining meat from diet could cut the risk of developing certain cancers by almost half.

A 2005 study concluded that eating more than two portions of red and processed meat a day increased the risk of developing bowel cancer by a third.