Page last updated at 01:33 GMT, Thursday, 27 November 2008

'Meat intake cut' on cancer fears

Processed meats have been linked to cancer

One in 10 people has tried to cut down on processed meats such as bacon in the wake of a report linking them to cancer, a survey suggests.

Older people among the 2,124 questioned were most likely to have done this.

A World Cancer Research Fund report last year said those eating two rashers of bacon and two sausages a day faced a 63% higher risk of bowel cancer.

A bowel cancer charity said other factors, including smoking and alcohol, were also key.

There is increasing evidence that lifestyle issues such as poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise are directly linked to an increased risk of the disease
Bowel Cancer UK

The cancer prevention report highlighted the evidence for the potential dangers of processed meat, but also pointed to other elements of diet and lifestyle which could either reduce or increase cancer risk.

A quarter of those questioned in the online survey said they had tried to eat more fruits and vegetables as a result of media coverage of the report, while 18% of people said they were making more effort to watch their weight, after the report described evidence linking excess weight to six forms of cancer.

Heavy consumption of red meat has already been linked to bowel cancer, and 11% of those asked said they had been trying to cut down.

Gut chemicals

However, scientists believe that chemicals created during the curing or processing of meat pose an additional threat to the cells lining the gut.

Among the over-55s, 37% said they had tried to reduce their intake of processed meat.

Younger people were less motivated, with only 6% of them doing this.

Richard Evans, the head of communications for the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "This survey shows that if people are told how they can reduce their risk of cancer then many of them will make changes.

"However, recent market research has shown that despite the wall-to-wall media coverage of our report, many people are still unaware of how things like diet and physical activity affect cancer risk."

The survey also found nearly two in five people were trying to be more physically active, and 9% were trying to cut down on alcohol in response to health messages.

A spokesman for Bowel Cancer UK said: "There is increasing evidence that lifestyle issues such as poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise are directly linked to an increased risk of the disease.

"We recommend that people who eat a diet high in processed meats cut down and eat more fruit and vegetables, but it is also important to remember to not focus on this alone.

"There are many other factors that might contribute to an increased risk of bowel cancer, such as smoking and an excess of alcohol, which should not be ignored."

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