Are hot dogs causing cancer?

Image via Thinkstock

Image via Thinkstock

New study from WHO declares preservative meats cause colon cancer

By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter

On an average day, one might wake up and grab a BLT at a local coffee shop, pick up a burger at a nearby fast food restaurant for lunch, and, at night, indulge in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Compared to the average consumer, it might not seem like a death sentence, but many are increasing their chances of cancer in the not-so-distant future.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently revealed a study that states that preservative meats may cause colon cancer. In the report, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) uncovered how carcinogenic certain types of meat were. On a scale of 1–5—1 having the most evidence to link it to cancer—meats like hot dogs, pepperoni, and bacon received a rating of 1, alongside cancer-causers like tobacco and asbestos. The severity of carcinogens present in any meat product depends on what is used to preserve it and how it is prepared.

Firstly, processed meat has either been cured, smoked, salted, or had chemicals such as sodium nitrate injected into it to preserve its former state. Most people question the chemicals inserted, but science has proven that as long as consumers are conscious of their consumption, they won’t have much to worry about. In fact, sodium nitrate is found in most vegetables, including spinach, beets, carrots, and celery.

“According to a 2009 study, approximately 80 per cent of dietary nitrates in a person’s diet are obtained from vegetable consumption,” claimed HealthLine Networks, a privately owned provider of health information for healthcare providers and health plans. Unfortunately, too high of an intake has the potential to cause colon cancer.

Secondly, the way any meat is prepared affects how the body reacts to it. Foods that are broiled, grilled, or barbecued will have carcinogens present as they are digested. The buildup of such a dangerous byproduct is similar to that of cigarette smoke. For example, when roasting marshmallows over a fire, sometimes they will catch on fire and transform the outer layer into a crunchy texture with a smoky flavor; that taste might hold a grim future if enough of them are consumed.

WHO has painted dire circumstances, presumably in the hopes of discouraging the consumption of processed meat products. However, just as tobacco is addictive, the taste of meat similarly mimics this as well.

The Canadian Cancer Society said to CTV that “based on the most recent evidence, adults should try to limit red meat to three servings per week. Taking into account the size of one serving, you’re looking at a little smaller than a deck of cards.”

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The Other Press, Douglas College's student newspaper since 1976. Articles, insight and updates from the New West and Coquitlam campuses.

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