Industry questions cancer study

Industry leaders have expressed reservations on the results of a study linking processed meat consumption with pancreatic cancer. The research compiled the results of 11 different papers, and found that consuming 50g of processed meat a day could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19%.

The Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) and Bpex urged consumers to treat these results with caution, as various other factors that could influence the risk were left out from the research. Dr Carrie Ruxton, a nutritionist on the MAP, said: “I am always cautious about drawing conclusions from these types of studies, because they do not properly control for other factors which influence the cancer risk. NHS Choices states that the causes of pancreatic cancer are ‘not yet fully understood’, but may include older age, smoking, blood group and inherited genes. If someone regularly has a bacon roll with a cigarette and a litre of fizzy pop and then develops pancreatic cancer later in life, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the cancer. We need better controlled studies to do this.”

The paper itself, by Swedish Karolinska Institute researchers, states that further study is needed to confirm these results. “Our study has some limitations. As a meta-analysis of observational studies we cannot rule out that individual studies may have failed to control for potential confounders [age, smoking, body mass index and histoy of diabetes]. Another limitation is that our findings were likely to be affected by imprecise measurement of red and processed meat consumption and potential confounders,” it says.

Bpex nutrition manager Maureen Strong said: “Another issue is that processed meat is a very broadly defined term. While in the UK it commonly refers to bacon and sausages, in France or Switzerland it could refer to completely different products. This study is not strong enough and it would be misguided to use this to inform policy. There is no reason why bacon cannot be consumed as part as an overall diet.”

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