Red Meat Linked to Another Type of Cancer

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Red MeatA health breakthrough from California has found that two elements in red meat can combine and form powerful carcinogens. It represents the latest finding that links cancer to one of America’s favorite foods.

The two components of red meat are protein and iron, which are normally considered vital parts of a healthy diet. But, they may link to form “N-nitroso” compounds that raise the risk for bladder cancer. People with a genetically reduced ability to reverse the effects of N-nitroso compounds may be at especially high risk.

Dietary protein is made up of amino acids, which can be turned into “biogenic amines.” Research has shown that the processing and storage of red meat increases amine concentrations. When these amines are in the presence of nitrites, they create “nitrosamines,” which have been linked to cancer. What’s more is that heme iron (found in red meat) may increase the formation of nitrosamines.

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The research team had previously found that red meat products, like liver and salami, have high heme and amine levels, and can increase the risk of bladder cancer. In their new study, the team looked at whether people’s DNA-repairing enzymes could limit the damage.

They tested a wide array of genetic variables, and collected data from 355 bladder cancer cases and 409 controls. They found that the link between red meat and bladder cancer was significantly higher in people with a certain genetic makeup.

The results further support recommendations by the World Cancer Research Fund to limit red meat intake, and to avoid processed meats to reduce risk for stomach and bowel cancer. It also suggests that exposure to red meat can affect secondary organs, like the bladder—as well as the stomach and intestines. People at risk of bladder cancer may wish to avoid intake of red and processed meats—particularly if they know about the genetic variables that make them even more vulnerable to the effects of carcinogens.

As usual, more studies are needed to explore this important link between heme iron and red meat, and risk for bladder cancer.

The study helps reinforce the notion that limiting red meat in the diet is a healthy choice. Substituting red meat with chicken, fish or even vegetables many times a week is a definitive step in the right health direction. It’s not necessarily what most of us want to hear, but sometimes, the truth hurts.

Sources for Today’s Articles:
Red Meat Linked to Another Type of Cancer
“2 components of red meat combined with alteration in DNA repair increase risk for bladder cancer,” American Association for Cancer Research, October 17, 2012.