Processed meat and cancer warning in children
The World Cancer Research Fund released information urging parents to avoid giving children processed meats to help reduce the risk of cancer. This includes bacon, ham, salami, hot dog sausages and pepperoni meats.

Scientists estimate about 3,700 bowel cancer cases could be prevented each year in the UK if everyone ate less than 70g of processed meat a week, which is roughly the equivalent of three rashers of bacon or 3 slices of quality ham.

As well as avoiding processed meat, the WCRF also recommends limiting intake of red meat to 500g (cooked weight) per week.

The link with cancer and processed meats has been known for many years through adult studies, although no specific studies in children.

4 key factors may give a clue to the link to cancer.

Meat processing: Meat is processed by salting, curing or adding chemicals such as nitrates and nitrites, all of which have been linked to cancer risk. Nitrates and nitrites are needed to keep the meat safe to eat and free from bacterial growth. These are converted to nitrosamines, a known carcinogen, by the stomach acid.

Red meat pigment: Red meat itself contains a compound called haem, the red blood pigment, found in lamb, beef and to a lesser extent pork and chicken. This is thought to raise the risk of cancer by increasing cell divisions in the gut, increasing possibility of a cancer mutation.  Fish, beans and pulses do not contain haem and have been linked to reduced cancer risk.

Cooking methods: Heating meat to the temperatures used in frying or baking, over 170deg C,  have been found to convert the meat protein into carcinogenic compounds such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Fat: the amount of fat in meat may be a causative factor due to production of the hormone oestrogen by the body, or from oestrogens within the fat in food. This hormone is linked to hormone related cancers such as breast.

The Food Standards Agency has not changed its advice on meat consumption.

Moderate intake of good quality meat is beneficial for many nutrients such as iron and zinc required for energy levels, strength, growth and good immune function.

As with all healthy eating advice, it is more about how you compose the meal as a whole with each food group having a vital part to play in health. Use lean, low fat, quality fresh meats and bring in plenty of the cancer protective vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans and pulses, which increase fibre and antioxidants in the body.

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