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Global Network

Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.

To reduce your cancer risk, eat no more than 18 ounces (cooked weight) per week of red meats, like beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meat such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages.

Red meat refers to beef, pork and lamb– foods like hamburgers, steak, pork chops and roast lamb. Processed meat refers to meats preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives. Examples include ham, bacon, pastrami, salami, hot dogs and sausages.

The Continuous Update Project reports concluded there was convincing evidence that red meat and processed meats are a cause of colorectal cancer. 

The Continuous Update Project reports also found processed meats are also a probable cause of stomach cancer.

The expert panel advises limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat. Studies suggest we can eat up to 18 ounces a week of red meat without significantly raising cancer risk. Research on processed meat shows cancer risk starts to increase with even small portions eaten daily.

When meat is preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives, cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) can form. These substances can damage cells in the body, leading to the development of cancer. Red meat contains substances that are linked to colon cancer. For example, heme iron, the compound that gives red meat its color, has been shown to damage the lining of the colon.

Studies also show that people who eat a lot of red meat tend to eat less plant-based foods, so they benefit less from their cancer-protective properties.


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