Scientists in Sweden, USA, Japan and the Netherlands have conducted studies which have lead them to believe that they have found a link between eating processed meat and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.

The study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that eating processed meat increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 19% for every 50g someone added to their daily diet. Having an extra 100g would increase the risk by 38%, says the BBC.

The NHS says that the exact cause of pancreatic cancer isn’t fully understood but there are a number of factors which can increase your risk. Of course if you are already in one of the other risk categories this must be cause for concern.

The risk factors that are already known are:

Age

Most (but not all) people affected by pancreatic cancer are aged between 50 and 80.

Smoking

About 1/3 of cases are associated with smoking and tobacco use

Diabetes

Although most people with diabetes won’t develop pancreatic cancer it is thought to be an increased risk

Chronic pancreatitis

Long term inflammation of the pancreas

Helicobacter pylori infection

Bacteria which cause stomach ulcers

Particularly worrying seems to be the conclusion that red meat consumption was particularly associated with increased risks in men.

The symptoms of pancreatic cancer are:

  • jaundice
  • pain in the stomach or back
  • weight loss.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • itching (if you have jaundice)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • bowel changes
  • fever and shivering
  • indigestion
  • blood clots

The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that people limit their intake of red meat to 500g and to avoid processed meat altogether.

Dr Rachel Thompson, the fund’s deputy head of science, says,

“There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of pancreatic cancer and this study may be an early indication of another factor behind the disease.”

The fund currently has a target for the world population average consumption of red meat to be no more than 300g a week with very little of it to be processed.

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