Processed meat may increase pancreatic cancer risk

According to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer, eating too much processed meat may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

The study, funded by the Swedish Cancer Foundation and Karolinska Institutet, found that for each 50 grams of processed meat eaten every day - equivalent to a sausage or two rashers of bacon - there was a 19 per cent rise in the risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate no meat.

The evidence for red meat was inconclusive with an increase in risk for men but not for women. The results showed that there was a 29 per cent increase in pancreatic cancer risk for men who ate 120 grams per day of red meat compared to those who ate no meat. This may be because men in the study tended to eat more red meat than women.

The researchers analysed the results of 11 studies involving over 6,000 people with pancreatic cancer.

Associate Professor Susanna Larsson, study author based at Karolinska Institutet said: "Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. So as well as diagnosing it early, it´s important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease."

About 8,090 people were diagnosed with the disease in the UK in 2008 - three per cent of all cancer cases - and around 7,780 people died from it.

Sara Hiom, director of information at Cancer Research UK, said: "The jury is still out as to whether meat is a definite risk factor for pancreatic cancer and more large studies are needed to confirm this. But this new analysis suggests processed meat may be playing a role."

Science news reference: 

Red and processed meat consumption and risk of pancreatic cancer: meta-analysis of prospective studies. SC Larsson, A Wolk. British Journal of Cancer (2012), DOI:10.1038/bjc.2011.585

Science news source: 

Karolinska Institute