The American Institute for Cancer Research defines processed meat as “meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives.” Cured meats like bacon, hot dogs and cold cuts have been linked to increased cancer risk overall and breast cancer in particular. A key factor may be the nitrites that are often added as a preservative in processed meats to combat the threat of botulism. When processed in the stomach, these nitrates become carcinogenic nitrosamines and nitrosamides. Hot dog intake has been linked with two leading pediatric cancers, brain tumors, and childhood leukemia.
Processed meat also appears linked to long-term weight gain. Intake of processed and other meats before pregnancy may raise the risk of gestational diabetes and may play a role in infertility and in early-onset puberty in girls. Cured meat consumption appears to be linked to risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, known as COPD. Processed meats may also contribute to aging, possibly by reducing our protective DNA telomeres.
Topic summary contributed by Linda.