Just 1 slice of bacon per day could put you at higher risk for this

Just 1 slice of bacon per day could put you at higher risk for this

That extra slice of bacon atop your burger may be as dangerous as it is indulgent.

A new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that even a small amount of processed meat – your breakfast bacon, your cookout hot dog, your salami sandwich – had a strong association with developing colorectal cancer.

Eating as little as 25 grams of processed meat – around one thin slice of bacon – per day, raised risk by about 20 percent.

And people who ate an average of 76 grams of red and processed meat per day had a 20 percent higher risk of developing the cancer compared to those who averaged 21 grams per day. For context, 76 grams of meat roughly translates to a quarter-pound beef burger. Twenty-one grams is equivalent to about one slice of ham.

Dr. Joaquin Estrada, a colorectal surgeon at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, says diet has long been tied to increased risk of colorectal cancer.

“Though the reasons for the link aren’t entirely clear, diets high in processed foods have shown to have a strong correlation to developing colorectal cancer,” Dr. Estrada says. “Similarly, this study also found alcohol was associated with an eight percent increase in risk, stressing the importance of moderation.”

The study found no increased colorectal cancer risks associated with eating fish, poultry, cheese, fruit, vegetables, tea and coffee. It found a 14 percent decrease of risk in those in the study who ate the most fiber from bread and breakfast cereals.

Dr. Estrada stresses the importance of taking steps to limit your risk. Other than age and genetic factors – such as family history and racial/ethnic background – diet, activity levels, smoking and alcohol consumption are some of the highest risk factors of colon cancer.

Pairing proper exercise and nutrition with regular colorectal screenings are formidable weapons in the fight against one of the most preventable yet deadly cancers in the country. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the U.S., killing more than 51,000 people each year.

“So much of the effort to lower the mortality and prevalence of colorectal cancer comes down to awareness and education,” Dr. Estrada says. “By taking care of your body and getting screened regularly, patients can reduce the risk of developing serious and hard-to-treat colorectal cancer dramatically. If we catch it early, it is much, much easier to treat.”

Those with average risk should begin regular screenings every 10 years starting at age 50, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Your health care provider can help you determine the best type of screening for you.

Take our Colorectal Health Assessment to learn more about your estimated lifetime risk. You can also schedule a screening online and get direct access to a colonoscopy in Illinois by clicking here. To learn more in Wisconsin, click here.

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About the Author

Nathan Lurz
Nathan Lurz

Nathan Lurz, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. He has nearly a decade of professional news experience as a reporter and editor, and a lifetime of experience as an enthusiastic learner. On the side, he enjoys writing even more, tabletop games, reading, running and explaining that his dog is actually the cutest dog, not yours, sorry.