Cancer: Popular foods that can ’cause bowel cancer’ – what to avoid or minimise

Cancer: Popular foods that can ’cause bowel cancer’ – what to avoid or minimise

Deborah James discusses 'scary' bowel cancer symptoms

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While a popular choice, “processed meat can cause bowel cancer”, Cancer Research certified. Examples of processed meat include ham and bacon, which have been proven to lead to bowel cancer. The charity emphasised: “We know for definite that processed meat is a cause of cancer.” Other processed meats include salami, sausages, pepperoni, and hot dogs which can be a staple of a British diet.

There are certain chemicals that are present in processed meat that can damage human cells.

These include: haem, nitrates, nitrites, heterocyclic amines, and polycyclic amines.

Haem is a red pigment found in processed red meat that can damage cells and cause bacteria in the body to produce harmful chemicals.

Nitrates and nitrites are chemicals used to keep processed meat fresher for longer.

When eaten, nitrites can be converted into cancer-causing chemicals – N-nitroso compounds or NOCs.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic amines are produced when meat is cooked at high temperatures, which can damage cells in the bowel.

Do note that “organic” processed meat “are not necessarily any healthier” and will not make a difference to your cancer risk.

Research has shown that cancer risk increased for every 25g of processed meat consumed daily; this is equivalent to a rasher of bacon or a slice of ham.

Around 5,400 cases of bowel cancer could be prevented each year if people did not eat processed meat.

The damage caused by the chemicals in processed meat can accumulate over time, thereby increasing cancer risk.

Red meat has also been linked to bowel cancer, which includes fresh, minced and frozen beef, pork, and lamb.

“The scientific evidence for red meat [to cause cancer] is less clear,” Cancer Research stated.

“Red meat is classed as a probable cause of cancer,” the charity elaborated.

“This means there is lots of good evidence of a link, but we need a few more of the best quality studies to be certain.”

For those hoping to reduce their bowel cancer risk, going vegetarian could be helpful.

However, if your aim is to cut down on red and processed meat, it can be useful to commit to meat-free days.

Bowel cancer symptoms

The NHS stated: “The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill.”

More than 90 percent of people with the disease have one of the following combination of symptoms:

  • A persistent change in bowel habits
  • Blood in the poo without the symptoms of haemorrhoids
  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or bloating brought on by eating.

A change in bowel habits may consist of pooping more often with looser, runnier faecal matter.

Do contact your doctor if you notice symptoms that last for three weeks or longer.

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