According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, processed meats – such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages and ham – do cause cancer.
The WHO’s report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.
Meanwhile, the health agency said red meats were “probably carcinogenic” but there was limited evidence.
The WHO did stress that meat also had health benefits.
Processed meat is meat that has been modified to increase its shelf-life or alter its taste – such as by smoking, curing or adding salt or preservatives.
It is these additions which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbeque, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.
The WHO has come to the conclusion on the advice of its International Agency for Research on Cancer, which assesses the best available scientific evidence.
The International Agency for Research has now placed processed meat in the same category as plutonium, but also alcohol as they definitely do cause cancer.
However, this does not mean they are equally dangerous. A bacon sandwich is not as bad as smoking.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal [bowel] cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” Dr. Kurt Straif from the WHO said.
Estimates suggest 34,000 deaths from cancer every year could be down to diets high in processed meat.
That is in contrast to one million deaths from cancer caused by smoking and 600,000 attributed to alcohol each year.
Red meat does have nutritional value too and is a major source of iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
However, the WHO said there was limited evidence that 100g of red meat a day increased the risk of cancer by 17%.
The WHO said its findings were important for helping countries give balanced dietary advice.
According to a new study, taller people have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer and skin cancer, among other cancers.
The Swedish study of five million people appears to support the theory that height and cancer risk are linked.
Its results found that for every extra 4in of height, when fully grown, the risk of developing cancer increased by 18% in women and 11% in men.
However, experts said the study did not take into account many risk factors and that tall people should not be worried.
They said that to reduce risk of cancer, the most important things to do are: giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Photo Getty Images
Previous studies have shown a link between height and an increased risk of developing cancer, although why it exists is not known.
In a preliminary report of the study, presented at the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology conference, researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm describe how they tracked a large group of Swedish adults for more than 50 years.
Taller women had a 20% greater risk of developing breast cancer, they said, while taller men and women increased their risk of skin cancer (or melanoma) by 30%.
This study’s early findings are very similar in size to those found by other studies.
Dr. Emelie Benyi, who led the study, said the results could help to identify risk factors that could lead to the development of treatments.
She added: “As the cause of cancer is multi-factorial, it is difficult to predict what impact our results have on cancer risk at the individual level.”
Although it is clear that adult height is not a cause of cancer, it is thought to be a marker for other factors related to childhood growth.
Scientists say taller people have more growth factors, which could encourage cancer development, they have more cells in their body because of their size, which increases the risk of one of them turning cancerous, and a higher food intake, which also makes them more at risk of cancer.
According to British experts, more than 4 in 10 cancers could be prevented if people led healthier lives.
Latest figures from Cancer Research UK show smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor, followed by unhealthy diets.
The charity is urging people to consider their health when making New Year resolutions.
Limiting alcohol intake and doing regular exercise is also good advice.
According to the figures spanning five years from 2007 to 2011, more than 300,000 cases of cancer recorded were linked to smoking.
A further 145,000 were linked to unhealthy diets containing too much processed food.
Obesity contributed to 88,000 cases and alcohol to 62,200.
Sun damage to the skin and physical inactivity were also contributing factors.
Prof Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK statistician based at Queen Mary University of London, said: “There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors.
“Of course everyone enjoys some extra treats during the Christmas holidays so we don’t want to ban mince pies and wine but it’s a good time to think about taking up some healthy habits for 2015.
“Leading a healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee someone won’t get cancer but we can stack the odds in our favor by taking positive steps now that will help decrease our cancer risk in future.”
Public Health England says a healthy lifestyle can play a vital role in reducing cancer risk.
According to a major safety review for the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), there is still no evidence mobile phones harm human health.
Scientists looked at hundreds of studies of mobile exposure and found no conclusive links to cancer risk, brain function or infertility.
However, they said monitoring should continue because little was known about long-term effects.
The HPA said children should still avoid excessive use of mobiles.
It is the biggest ever review of the evidence surrounding the safety of mobile phones.
The study said exposure to low-level radio frequency fields was almost universal and continuous because of TV and radio broadcasting, Wi-Fi, and other technological developments.
A group of experts working for the HPA looked at all significant research into the effects of low-level radio frequency.
They concluded that people who were not exposed above guideline levels did not experience any detectable symptoms.
That included people who reported being sensitive to radio frequency.
Scientists looked at hundreds of studies of mobile exposure and found no conclusive links to cancer risk, brain function or infertility
They also said there was no evidence that exposure caused brain tumors, other types of cancer, or harm to fertility or cardiovascular health.
But they said very little was known about risks beyond five years, because most people did not use mobile phones until the late 1990s.
Prof. Anthony Swerdlow, who chaired the review group, said it was important to continue monitoring research.
“Even though it’s relatively reassuring, I also think it’s important that we keep an eye on the rates of brain tumors and other cancers,” he said.
“One can’t know what the long-term consequences are of something that has been around for only a short period.”
There has been speculation about the health effects of using mobile phones for years.
The HPA conducted a previous review in 2003, which also concluded that there was no evidence of harm. But there is now far more research into the subject.
The experts said more work was needed on the effect of radio frequency fields on brain activity, and on the possible association with behavioral problems in children.
They also called for more investigation into the effects of new technology which emits radio frequency, such as smart meters in homes and airport security scanners.
The HPA said it was not changing its advice about mobile phone use by children.
“As this is a relatively new technology, the HPA will continue to advise a precautionary approach,” said Dr. John Cooper, director of the HPA’s centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards.
“The HPA recommends that excessive use of mobile phones by children should be discouraged.”
Food companies in UK have been warned about the presence of acrylamide, cancer-risk chemical, in everyday products ranging from crisps and chips to instant coffee and ginger biscuits.
A biscuit designed for babies and toddlers has also been caught up in the alert.
Experts are even warning families to only lightly toast their bread at home, as the chemical, called acrylamide, is more likely to form the longer and darker foods cook.
A study by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has identified 13 products containing raised levels of the chemical. In each case, officials at the local council where the supplier is based have been told to notify them.
Acrylamide, which is still being investigated by scientists, is a cooking by-product associated with frying, baking, roasting or toasting foods at very high temperatures, usually greater than 120 C.
The FSA insists its findings raise no immediate risk to the public and there is no need for people to change their diet.
The UK Food Standards Agency warns food companies that everyday products such as instant coffee could contain the cancer chemical acrylamide
However, it is putting pressure on all food companies to reduce acrylamide levels because long-term consumption could increase the risk of cancer. Its official advice is also that families should ensure bread and chips they eat are only toasted or baked to the “lightest color possible”.
The FSA said its study of levels of acrylamide and furan – another cancer-risk chemical – is used to identify which firms need to take action. Acrylamide is formed by a reaction between natural components in food as it cooks.
In reality it has probably been in the diet for as long as man has fried, roasted or toasted food. Manufacturers including Heinz and McVitie’s have already responded by changing their recipes.
But others, including Nestle, makers of Nescafe, say it is impossible to do so without harming the flavor and quality of their products. Nestle added: “There is currently no scientific evidence to suggest any particular product has any negative impact on health in the context of acrylamide exposure.”
The FSA is required by the EU and the European Food Safety Authority to carry out the annual tests. It looked at 248 samples, from chips sold by fast-food outlets to supermarket own-label and big brand ranges. In 13 cases levels were above the “indicative value” – a trigger point to tell the firm it should examine its production process.
European watchdogs have been putting pressure on food manufacturers to reduce acrylamide for almost a decade.
In 2002 Swedish studies revealed high levels formed during the frying or baking of potato or cereal products.
The FSA said: “This raised worldwide public concern because studies in laboratory animals suggest acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer in humans by interacting with the DNA in cells.
“The Agency believes exposure to such chemicals should be as low as reasonably practicable.”
The latest survey found “an upward trend” in acrylamide levels in processed cereal-based baby foods, excluding rusks. Importantly however, the FSA said this did not mean parents should stop giving these products to youngsters.
The UK Food and Drink Federation, which represents manufacturers, said members are “ensuring levels are as low as reasonably achievable”.
Heinz changed its Banana Biscotti recipe this year to reduce acrylamide to trace levels. United Biscuits, which makes McVitie’s Gingernuts, said it has cut acrylamide by 70%. The firm also pledged to cut levels in its McCoy’s crisps.
New evidence suggests that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can prevent and possibly even treat cancer, as the drug appeared not only to reduce the risk of developing many different cancers in the first place, but may also stop cancers spreading around the body.
The three new studies published by The Lancet add to mounting evidence of the drug’s anti-cancer effects.
Many people already take daily aspirin as a heart drug.
But experts warn that there is still not enough proof to recommend it to prevent cancer cases and deaths and warn that the drug can cause dangerous side effects like stomach bleeds.
Prof. Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University, and colleagues, who carried out the latest work, had already linked aspirin with a lower risk of certain cancers, particularly bowel cancer.
But their previous work suggested people needed to take the drug for about 10 years to get any protection.
Now the same experts believe the protective effect occurs much sooner – within three to five years – based on a new analysis of data from 51 trials involving more than 77,000 patients.
And aspirin appears not only to reduce the risk of developing many different cancers in the first place, but may also stop cancers spreading around the body.
The trials were designed to compare aspirin with no treatment for the prevention of heart disease.
But when Prof. Peter Rothwell’s team examined how many of the participants developed and died from cancer, they found this was also related to aspirin use.
Aspirin appears not only to reduce the risk of developing many different cancers in the first place, but may also stop cancers spreading around the body, suggests fresh evidence
Taking a low (75-300 mg) daily dose of the drug appeared to cut the total number of cancer cases by about a quarter after only three years – there were nine cancer cases per 1,000 each year in the aspirin-taking group, compared with 12 per 1,000 for those taking dummy pills.
It also reduced the risk of a cancer death by 15% within five years (and sooner if the dose was higher than 300 mg)
And if patients stayed on aspirin for longer, their cancer death risk went down even further – by 37% after five years.
Low-dose aspirin also appeared to reduce the likelihood that cancers, particularly bowel, would spread (metastasis) to other parts of the body, and by as much as half in some instances.
In absolute numbers, this could mean for every five patients treated with aspirin one metastatic cancer would be prevented, the researchers estimate.
At the same time, aspirin cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes, but it also increased the risk of a major bleed.
However this elevated bleeding risk was only seen in the first few years of aspirin therapy and decreased after that.
Critics point out that some of the doses given in the study were much higher than the 75 mg dose typically given in the UK. Also, some very large US studies looking at aspirin use were not included in the analysis. The researchers acknowledge both of these points in their published papers.
Prof. Peter Rothwell says for most fit and healthy people, the most important things they can do to reduce their lifetime cancer risk is to give up smoking, take exercise and have a healthy diet.
After that aspirin does seem to reduce the risk further – only by a small amount if there is no risk factor, but if there is a family history for something like colorectal cancer, it tips the balance in favor of aspirin, Prof. Peter Rothwell said.
A major British study found that taking aspirin regularly can reduce the long-term risk of cancer by 60%.
Researchers found that aspirin can reduce the risk of cancer by 60% in people with a family history of the disease.
The huge study covered 16 countries and is the first proof that aspirin has a preventive action that is likely to benefit anyone using it every day.
Many people who take low-dose aspirin to prevent heart disease will gain from its anti-cancer properties, while healthy people may follow the example of increasing numbers of doctors who take it for insurance.
A major British study found that taking aspirin regularly can reduce the long-term risk of cancer by 60 per cent
The study included 861 patients with Lynch syndrome, a genetic fault leading to bowel and other cancers at an early age, half of them were given two aspirins a day, 600 mg in total, for two years.
The rest of the patients included in the study were given placebo, or dummy, pills, says a report published online in The Lancet medical journal.
Initially, the researchers found no change in cancer rates between the groups. However, when they followed up the study after 5 years, they detected a significant difference.
By 2010, the researchers had identified a total of 19 new bowel cancers among those given aspirin and 34 among the placebo group, a cut of 44% among patients taking the drug.
Then, researchers focused on the 60% of patients who they were certain had conscientiously taken aspirin for at least two years they found an even more striking result.
In that group, only ten cancers were discovered compared with 23 in the placebo group, a cut of 63%.
Rates of other cancers linked to Lynch syndrome were almost halved by taking aspirin.
Professor Sir John Burn from Newcastle University, who led the research, said:
“What we have finally shown is that aspirin has a major preventive effect on cancer but it doesn’t become apparent until years later.”
The study is being hailed as the last piece of the jigsaw after years spent trying to prove that aspirin has a direct effect in stopping tumours.
A big step forward came last year with a study which showed that low-dose aspirin cuts overall death rates by a third after five years’ use.
However, it used records to look at the incidental benefits for patients taking it to stave off further heart attacks and strokes. The latest trial actually set out to prove that cancer could be prevented in people taking it for no other reason.
According to experts, healthy middle-aged people who start taking aspirin around the age of 45 or 50 for 20 to 30 years could expect to reap the most benefit because cancer rates rise with age.
There is widespread concern that side-effects such as stomach bleeding and haemorrhagic stroke outweigh any advantage among healthy people.
Prof. Burn, who takes aspirin every day, estimates there are 30,000 people with Lynch syndrome in the UK who might benefit from aspirin treatment.
“If we put them all on two aspirins a day now, in the next 30 years or so we would prevent 10,000 cancers. On the other hand, this would cause around 1,000 ulcers.
“If we can prevent 10,000 cancers in return for 1,000 ulcers and 100 strokes, in most people’s minds that’s a good deal, especially if you’ve grown up in a family with three, four, five, six people who have had cancer.
“On the other hand, if you’re just in the general population and you don’t have cancer in your family, then that’s going to be a much finer balance.”
According to Prof. Burn, further research will take place to discover the ideal dose of aspirin.