The Sun recently reported that a relationship exists between eating processed meats and developing cancer during menopause. Menopause and cancer are therefore, related. The comments by the Sun note that this did not concern unprocessed meats.

Meat which is processed is known to increase the risk of developing cancers, such as Breast Cancer, owing to the added chemicals which enhance both flavour and colour. The chemicals are added are known to contain cancer causing compounds. For meat to be processed, it has to be preserved. Such processed meat can be preserved by: smoking, curing, salting and with the addition of preservatives. Meats of this nature often include bacon, sausages and ham.

The correlation between how processed meat cause cancer and a variety of cancers have been well known, for some time. This being said, the cause and effect of developing cancer from red meats or meat which is processed is lesser known, as no former studies have had valid results to prove this relationship.

A large scale study involving 262,195 participants of UK women found that menopausal women who consumed processed meat had a 9% increased risk of developing cancer of the breast than women who did not consume processed meat. In a separate study of postmenopausal women who consumed 9g of processed meat daily, it was found that the risk was even higher, to develop Breast Cancer, at a staggering 21% compared to postmenopausal women who did not consume processed meat.

Owing to the nature of the studies, it cannot be certain that processed meat directly influences a female’s risk of developing Breast Cancer. However, it can be observed that consuming less processed meat may benefit your health.

Nature of the Study

The study was founded by a group of researchers from the University of Glasgow, it was published in a peer-reviewed European Journal of Cancer and received its funding from the Glasgow University Paterson Endowment Fund.

One news source which wrote about the studies findings, MailOnline, comments that the World Health Organisation (WHO) explain that processed meats possess the same cancer threat level as cigarettes, asbestos and poison arsenic. During 2015, the WHO classified processed meat as a cancer causing substance (carcinogenic foods). However, it is by no means as riskful as smoking 20 cigarettes per day.

Further into the Research

The research is known to be a cohort study and its 262,195 sample of women were selected from the UK Biobank general population chart. The women who were aged between 40 and 69 were cancer free at the time of their 2007-2010 recruitment. A completed questionnaire supplied researchers with information about their lifestyle, diet, weight and height.

A seven year following of the participants then occured. Ultimately, to observe if any of the sample would develop Breast Cancer, following the consumption of red and processed meats. Researchers did take into account other factors from the participants lifestyles, too.

Factors which were considered included: alcohol consumption, age, ethnicity, physical exercise and diet. The study was most concerned, however, with nutrition and cancer.

Basic Results

The findings of the study concluded that women who ate red or processed meat have an cancer risk factor for developing Breast Cancer. The risk was increased by 15%, Hazard Ratio (HR) by 1.15, Confidence Interval (CI) by 95%. 1.04 to 1.28 for women who consumed 4g of processed meat daily ranging to 21%, HR 1.21. 95% CI 1.08 to 1.35 for women eating more than 9g per day. The results are only representative of postmenopausal women. Premenopausal women eating less than 9g per day of processed meat were found to have no increased risk.

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Source: NHS Choices