From our friends at NutritionFacts.org:
Why does the leading cancer and diet authority recommend we avoid bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage and all processed meat (including chicken and turkey)?
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How Much Cancer Does Lunch Meat Cause?
How many years of life are lost to potentially preventable cancers? Every year, more than five million expected years of life are lost to lung cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer alone. Therefore, identifying and improving strategies for prevention of cancer remains a priority, especially since not more than 2% of all human cancer is attributable to purely genetic factors. The rest involve external factors such as our diet.
The most comprehensive summary of evidence on diet and cancer ever compiled recommends we should eat mostly foods of plant origin to help prevent cancer. This means centering one’s diet around plant foods. Not just whole grains and beans every day, but every meal.
And, when it came to foods that may increase cancer risk, they were similarly bold. Unlike many other dietary guidelines that wimp out, and just advise people to “moderate” their intake of bad foods, like eat less candy. The cancer guidelines didn’t mince words when it came to the worst of the worst. For example, don’t just minimize soda intake, avoid it. Don't just cut back on bacon, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and lunch meats, but avoid processed meats, period, because data do not show any level of intake that can confidently be shown not to be associated with risk.
Processed meat cannot only be thought of as a powerful multi-organ carcinogen, but may increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Red meat was bad, but processed meat was worse, and that included white meat, like chicken and turkey slices. So, with more heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, it’s no surprise processed meat consumption has been associated with increased risk of death.
In Europe, they calculated that reduction of processed meat consumption to less than 1/4 a hot dog a day [sic - - should be half a hot dog] would prevent more than 3% of all deaths.
This was the second largest prospective study ever done on diet and cancer, a study of more than 400,000 people. The largest ever, 600,000, was done here in the US, the AARP study. They found the preventable fraction to be much higher, suggesting, for example, that 20% of heart disease deaths among women could be averted if the highest consumers cut down to like less than a half strip of bacon a day.