Heidi from Noosa, Queensland, Australia asked:

Can eating processed or smoked meats cause cancer?

I was told that processed and smoked meats like salami and smoked salmon have ingredients in them that can cause cancer? Is there any truth to this?

The source:
Our answer

Processed and smoked meats differ from unprocessed meat in that they may be cured with the addition of preservatives and/or other additives. Eating processed meat appears to cause a modest increase to your risk of bowel cancer. There is more limited evidence suggesting that processed meat is associated with oesophageal, lung, stomach and prostate cancer. The evidence around smoked meats, like fish, is less clear. However, we know that some smoked meats contain some of the concerning chemicals that are present in processed meat. Cancer Council recommends you limit or avoid processed meats such as sausages, frankfurts, salami, bacon and ham, which are high in fat and salt. We recommend eating moderate amounts of unprocessed lean red meat. You should also try to limit your consumption of burnt or charred meat. Because there are a lot of health benefits to eating fish, our recommendations around smoked fish are not as strong as they are for other processed meats. However, we recommend limiting consumption of smoked fish because of the high salt content, which has been linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. In order to meet nutrient needs, Cancer Council recommends eating a wide variety of nutritious foods consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. This includes two serves of fruits and five serves of vegetables each day, as well as wholegrain cereal foods, lean meat and meat alternatives and low fat dairy products.

This page was last updated on: February 6, 2014

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