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AICR HealthTalk

Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q:        Do recommendations to avoid processed meat in order to help prevent cancer refer to ground turkey, chicken and beef?           

A:        Although grinding meat or poultry is a form of processing, the link between processed meat and colorectal cancer does not refer to fresh meat ground up for burgers or casseroles. The types of processed meat that studies convincingly link to colorectal cancer risk include meat and poultry that is smoked, salted, cured or contains added preservatives (such as nitrites). Processed meat refers to choices such as bacon, sausage, ham, hot dogs and bologna. In addition to its link to colon cancer, processed meat is often high in sodium, increasing risk of high blood pressure, and it is also linked to risk of type 2 diabetes. You don’t need to be as cautious with fresh ground meat. However, fresh red meat – which refers to beef, lamb and pork – whether it is solid (like a steak or roast) or ground (like meatloaf or hamburger) is linked to colorectal cancer risk when consumed in amounts beyond 18 ounces per week. You don’t want to exceed that amount, even getting the extra lean version, because red meat’s heme iron content is what seems to pose the risk. If you’re eating ground meat beyond 18 ounces per week, switch some or all of it to lean (7% fat or less) ground turkey or ground chicken. If you'd like further information about red and processed meat, you might like to check this free brochure from the American Institute for Cancer Research: The Facts About Red and Processed Meat.


The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $95 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International..

Published on 03/25/2013

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