Consuming processed meat like bacon, ham, sausages, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and canned meat is associated with higher risk of developing breast cancer, warned researchers.
In a review of 15 studies, published in the International Journal of Cancer, processed meat consumption was associated with a nine per cent higher breast cancer risk.
However, the researchers did not observe a significant association between red (unprocessed) meat intake and risk of breast cancer.
“Previous works linked increased risk of some types of cancer to higher processed meat intake, and this recent meta-analysis suggests that processed meat consumption may also increase breast cancer risk,” said lead author Maryam Farvid, from the Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Therefore, cutting down on processed meat seems beneficial for the prevention of breast cancer,” Farvid added.
The study backs up previous findings of the World Health Organization (WHO), which says processed meats can cause cancer.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.
It is the chemicals involved in the processing which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbecue, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.
Although red meats were “probably carcinogenic,” there was limited evidence, the WHO noted.
Processed and red meat are also linked to increased risks of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
But, the researchers recommend cutting down on the meat rather than eliminating it, as it is also known to have health benefits.
Currently, the National Health Service recommends eating no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day.