Break up with bacon for your own good

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Jun 4, 2019 - 1:34:28 PM

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Black people are in love with bacon and other processed red meats like sausage, hot dogs and some luncheon meats.

It’s a love affair that puts Black people at an increased risk for colon cancer, according to a new report from experts at the University of Oxford, University of Auckland and the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization.

“Our results strongly suggest that people who eat red and processed meat four or more times a week have a higher risk of developing bowel cancer than those who eat red and processed meat less than twice a week,” explained Tim Key, co-author of the study and deputy director of the Cancer Epidemiology Unit of Nuffield Department of Population Health.

“There is substantial evidence that red and processed meat are linked to bowel cancer, and the World Health Organization classifies processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic,” Dr. Key added.

“Most previous research looked at people in the 1990s or earlier, and diets have changed significantly since then, so our study gives a more up-to-date insight that is relevant to meat consumption today.”

The study analyzed the diets and cancer rates of close to half a million people who participated in the U.K. Biobank research project. The Biobank is a national and international health resource. The researchers tracked participants for nearly six years and discovered those who ate an average of 76 grams (almost 3 ounces) of red or processed meat (salted, cured, fermented, smoked, or otherwise treated to “enhance flavor or improve preservation”) a day—which is in line with U.K. government guides—had a 20 percent higher risk of colon cancer than those who had 21 grams a day.

In the United States colon is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancers, and around 51,020 deaths are expected to occur due to colorectal cancer in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society.

Colon cancer rates are such a concern in the nation’s capital that last year the Physicians Committee, a nonprofit with 12,000 doctor members, launched bus shelter advertisements near D.C. hospitals to urge patients and others to #BreakUpWithBacon to prevent colon cancer.

The ads warn, “Bacon and other processed meats can cause colorectal cancer,” and “Bacon can bite you back!” The campaign also included numerous print, radio and TV ads.

The colorectal cancer rate for Blacks in the District is nearly triple that for Whites—59.1 versus 22.1 per 100,000. Similarly, the incidence of colorectal cancer in Ward 8, the poorest ward in the city, is roughly three times higher than in Wards 2 and 3.

The campaign hoped to reach the entire city, but specifically targeted the wards hit hardest by colorectal cancer.

The advertisements also wanted to push hospitals to stop serving cancer-causing foods in their cafeterias and patient menus.

“D.C. hospitals can help patients, staff, and visitors prevent colorectal cancer by banning bacon and other processed meats,” said Physicians Committee president Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C. “As places of healing, hospitals should break up with bacon, just like they dumped cigarettes a generation ago.”

The American Medical Association advised hospitals in 2017 to eliminate bacon and other processed meats to protect the health of patients, staff, and visitors. The World Health Organization has determined that processed meat, including bacon, is a major contributor to colorectal cancer, classifying it as “carcinogenic to humans.”

WHO warns that there is no amount safe for consumption, and explains that its assessment is “… based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”