A single slice of bacon per day linked to higher risk of bowel cancer, study says

The last thing you would probably want to hear in the morning is “put down the bacon,” but according to a new study, that might not be such a bad idea. 

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, links moderate consumption of red or processed meat to an increased risk of colorectal, or bowel cancer. 

Researchers analyzed data from 2,609 men and women aged 40-69 years, reporting their diet on a “short food-frequency questionnaire.” Their diets were evaluated over the course of five years on average, with the maximum being more than eight years.

Participants of the study who were consuming an average of 76 grams of red and processed meat per day met the current consumption recommendation, but “still had a 20 percent increase in risk of colorectal cancer compared with those who ate an average of 21 grams of red and processed meat per day,” the study says.

The study concluded that processed meat, specifically sausages or bacon, posed a greater risk than red meats that had not been heavily processed, with the risk of bowel cancer rising 20 percent with every 25 grams of processed meat people ate per day. That amount is roughly equivalent to a single thin slice of bacon.

The U.K. Government Department of Health currently recommends that people should keep their consumption of red and processed meat to less than 90 grams per day.

The U.K. National Health Service says that a single slice of ham contains 23 grams of red and processed meat, while a quarter-pound beef burger contains 78 grams. 

According to data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, men in the U.K. consumed an average of 36 more grams of red and processed meat than women.

The study found that alcohol was also a significant factor in risks of colorectal cancer “with the association stronger in men and null in women.”

Fiber from bread and breakfast cereals was linked with a reduced risk, according to the study. 

In the UK, bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men and women, according to cancer research.