AARP Eye Center
Sorry, bacon and sausage lovers, but a new study finds that eating just one link of sausage or two slices of bacon every day may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19 percent.
"Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. So as well as diagnosing it early, it's important to understand what can increase the risk of this disease," study author Susanna Larsson, an epidemiologist at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, told BBC News.
However, other experts called the overall risk increase "modest," considering that the risk of pancreatic cancer itself is low. About 44,000 men and women get the cancer annually.
Marji McCullough, director of nutritional epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, who wasn't involved in the study, said the study results were consistent with other research that had linked processed meats with gastrointestinal cancers. "This is more reason to follow a healthy diet," she told MedPage Today.
In the U.S., the risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age, according to the American Cancer Society. Almost all patients are older than 45; average age at diagnosis is 72. Unfortunately, the five-year survival rate remains quite low -- only about 5 percent.
The new study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, analyzed data from 11 clinical trials and 6,643 patients with pancreatic cancer.
The researchers were looking for a link between eating red and processed meats (like bacon, deli meats, hot dogs) and cancer. Their analysis suggests that for every 50 grams of processed meat a person eats per day -- the equivalent of two slices of bacon or a link of sausage -- their risk goes up 19 percent.
Those who eat 150 grams (three sausages or six strips of bacon) daily, their pancreatic cancer risk jumps 57 percent.
To put things in perspective, however, smoking increases the risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 74 percent, researchers said in a statement accompanying the study.
As for whether eating red meat every day is linked to pancreatic cancer, the evidence was inconclusive, the researchers said. Men who ate red meat daily showed an increased risk, but not women -- possibly because the men in the study ate more red meat than the women.