Meaty Diet Linked to Pancreatic Cancer
But Green Tea May Protect Against Prostate Cancer
April 20, 2005 (Anaheim, Calif.) -- New studies presented at a major cancer meeting reinforce the old adage that you are what you eat (and drink).
One study shows that green tea may stave off prostate cancer. Another study suggests that eating a lot of hot dogs, sausage, and other processed meats may raise the .
Loading up on red meat also seems to increase the chance of developing pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly of tumors, says study researcher Ute Nothlings, DrPH, MSE.
"The findings suggest that eating less processed meat and less red meat might help prevent pancreatic cancer," she tells WebMD. Nothlings is a researcher at the Cancer Research Center at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu.
Red meat has also been
Diving Into the Meat of the Matter
For the study, the researchers examined the relationship between diet and pancreatic cancer among nearly 200,000 men and women.
When they first entered the study in the mid-1990s, all the participants filled out a detailed questionnaire that asked what foods they had eaten in the past year, how frequently they had eaten them, and how much they had eaten.
By an average of seven years later, 482 of the men and women had developed pancreatic cancer.
Those who ate more than 1.5 ounces of processed meat a day were about two-thirds more likely to have pancreatic cancer than those who tended to stay away from hot dogs and sausages.
People who ate more than 2 ounces of red meat or pork a day increased their risk by about 50%, Nothlings says. These findings held true after taking into account known risk factors, such as smoking and a family history of pancreatic cancer.
But it appeared that people can eat poultry, dairy products and eggs with impunity, at least where pancreatic cancer is concerned. The study showed no link between those foods and the cancer.
Although fish has been shown to be protective against many diseases, the researchers found no link to pancreatic cancer risk.
Meat Processing Methods May Be Culprit
Figuring that the high fat content in processed and red meat must be to blame, the researchers next looked at the relationship between fat intake and pancreatic cancer.
But heavy consumption of fats or saturated fats did not increase risk, Nothlings says.
The most likely culprit: the preparation method, she says. Other studies have suggested that chemical reactions that occur during processing and cooking meats can yield cancer-causing substances.
William Nelson, MD, PhD, professor of oncology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, agrees. "These findings are a nudge toward making a recommendation that fish and poultry, safely cooked by baking and steaming, may help prevent cancer," he tells WebMD. Nelson moderated a news conference at which the studies were discussed during the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.