Tag Archives: colorectal cancer

Colorectal Cancer: Raise Awareness of the Solution, Not Just the Problem

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but just because March is ending, doesn’t mean that colorectal cancer will simply disappear. To raise awareness one month out of the year, some folks will buy rubber wristbands. Others will put magnetic ribbons on their car or wear dark blue on Tuesdays. While the intentions are noble, they won’t actually decrease anyone’s risk of colorectal cancer. But there is one simple change everyone should make that can dramatically reduce the risk of colorectal cancer: ditching processed meat.

The evidence is clear—processed meat causes colorectal cancer. Processed meat products are “meats that have been preserved by smoking, salting, curing or adding other preservatives.” This includes hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, ham, and deli meats. Unfortunately, all of these are common items found on restaurant menus, in school cafeterias, and even in hospitals. Raising awareness about colorectal cancer involves spreading the word about the dangers of putting pepperoni on pizza, serving bologna on lunch lines, or hawking hot dogs at a baseball game. It takes more than ribbons and t-shirts to make a difference—it involves making a change and encouraging your loved ones to do the same, or even writing letters to local restaurants and asking them to take cancer-causing dishes off their menus.

From now on, instead of shelling out cash for a wristband you’ll just toss on April 1st, how about skipping processed meat? Or if you’re ahead of the game and have already eliminated these products from your diet, share our infographic illustrating all of the dangers of processed meat and convince a friend to Drop the Dog. Spread the word and save a life.


(Click for full-size image.)

1907 New York Times Article Shows that Meat Causes Cancer. A century later, many people still haven’t heard the news.

In a recent NPR debate about the risks of meat-eating, I put forward the proposition that meat causes cancer. Judging by faces in the audience, this was a new idea. While everyone understands the link between cancer and cigarettes, the link with meat has somehow escaped notice.

I cited two enormous studies—the 2009 NIH-AARP Cancer Increasing Among Meat Eatersstudy, with half a million participants, and a 2012 Harvard study with 120,000 participants. In both studies, meat-eaters were at higher risk of a cancer death, and many more studies have shown the same thing.

How does meat cause cancer? It could be the heterocyclic amines—carcinogens that form as meat is cooked. It could also be the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or the heme iron in meat, or perhaps its lack of fiber and paucity of antioxidants. But really the situation is like tobacco. We know tobacco causes lung cancer, even though no one yet knows exactly which part of the tobacco smoke is the major culprit. And although meat-eaters clearly have higher cancer rates, it is not yet clear which part of meat does the deed.

The tragedy is this: The link between meat and cancer has been known for more than a century. On September 24, 1907, the New York Times published an article entitled “Cancer Increasing among Meat Eaters,” which described a seven-year epidemiological study showing that meat-eaters were at high cancer risk, compared with those choosing other staples. Focusing especially on immigrants who had abandoned traditional, largely planted-based, diets in favor of meatier fare in the U.S., the lead researcher said, “There cannot be the slightest question that the great increase in cancer among the foreign-born over the prevalence of that disease in their native countries is due to the increased consumption of animal foods….”

Over the past century, meat eating in America has soared, as have cancer statistics. USDA figures show that meat eating rose from 123.9 pounds of meat per person per year in 1909 to 201.5 pounds in 2004.

The good news is that many have woken up and smelled the carcinogens. They know there is plenty of protein in beans, grains, and vegetables, and that traditional Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Japanese foods—and endless other cuisines—turn these plant-based staples into delicious and nourishing meals. Meat eating has fallen about one percent every year since 2004.

If you haven’t yet kicked the habit, the New Year is the perfect time to do it. We’ve got you covered with our Kickstart programs, books, DVDs, and everything else you’ll ever need. Let’s not wait another hundred years.

Prevent Cancer by Banning Bacon and Nixing Nicotine

The American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout takes place this week, shifting the public’s focus toward cancer prevention. Cigarettes are an easy target, since their link to cancer is well-publicized, and the vast majority of smokers already want to quit.Prevent Cancer by Banning Bacon and Nixing Nicotine

But despite the drop in smoking, cancer rates are still high. So we need to go several steps further. The next culprits are processed meat products, such as bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats. Just as tobacco attacks the lungs, processed meats attack the digestive tract.

The World Cancer Research Fund says the link between processed meat and cancer is so strong that it should be avoided completely. The EPIC study results published earlier this year show that eating processed meat is linked with a 44 percent increased risk of death. A recent study from the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that colorectal cancer survivors who consume large amounts of processed meat are at a 29 percent higher risk of death from general causes and a 63 percent higher risk of death from heart disease.

While tobacco products have been the object of labeling efforts designed to maximize risk awareness, processed meat products have gone under the radar. Mayor Bloomberg just signed new legislation raising the legal purchasing age of cigarettes from 18 to 21. If he and other politicians truly have their constituents’ health in mind, they will make the same efforts to label and restrict the purchase of hot dogs and other processed meat products. But consumers certainly don’t have to hold out for a new law to can the cigarettes, scrap the bacon, or share a healthful recipe with some friends. Positive change can happen anytime—so start now and help lead the cultural shift towards better health.

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