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.
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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.
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.