Eating small amounts of red; processed meat like a strip of bacon could heighten the risk of bowel cancer, a new study conducted at Oxford University has found.


According to Cancer Research UK (CRUK), 5,400 of about 41,804 cases of bowel cancer in the United Kingdom each year could be prevented if people ruled out processed meat from their diet.

Although the evidence was not conclusive, previous research conducted by the World Heal Organization (WHO) had established the carcinogenic effects of red and processed meat consumption.

Backed and funded by the United Kingdom’s Cancer Research Institute, the research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology had scientists analyze data from about 500,000 participants involved in a similar study and follow them up over a space of six years.


The findings revealed that 40 participants of every 10,000 who ate as little as 21g of red processed meat daily developed bowel cancer — a cancer of the large intestine marked by bloody stool; abdominal pain and discomforting changes in bowel habits.

It also found that those who consumed three bacon strips daily in place of one had an increase in cancer risk by 20 percent while 48 of those who ate an increased 76g of red and processed meat had more risk of developing the disease.

“The more meat you eat, the higher your risk of getting cancer and obviously the reverse is true. The less you eat, the less likely you are to get bowel cancer,” said Emma Shields, information manager at CRUK.


Processed meat, including bacon; sausages; and hot dogs, are generally modified — sometimes with chemicals — to extend shelf-life or improve the taste. They could — alongside unhealthy lifestyle habits — pose serious health threats.

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