Limit Processed Meat: Reduce Your Cancer Risk

03-23-2017 8:27 AM

Earlier this month, the University of Mississippi Medical Center removed hot dogs from its menu.

Should you follow?

Well, a hot dog here and there probably won’t hurt you. But if you’re consuming a steady diet of processed meat, you’ll want to cut back to reduce your cancer risk.

The World Health Organization classifies processed meat as Group 1 carcinogen.

What’s a Group 1 Carcinogen?

The Group 1 carcinogen ranking means this agent causes cancer. The WHO also ranks Tobacco and asbestos as group one carcinogens. However, carcinogens don’t necessarily cause cancer 100 percent of the time. The American Cancer Society does a great job of explaining this here.

What does “processed meat” include?

Any meat that is salted, cured, fermented, smoked or otherwise processed to enhance flavor or improve preservation. This includes deli meat, ham, sausage, bacon, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat-based preparations and sauces.

What makes processed meat so bad?

Two main factors: salt and nitrates.

What about nitrate-free deli meat and hot dogs?

These products are relatively new. We need more research to determine if these are safer to eat. Items like turkey sausage or deli meat may still be smoked, salted or cured.

I found this infographic helpful because it tells how much your risk goes up or down for specific foods and cancers. Hope you find it helpful too.

Are you trying to limit processed meats? What do you eat instead? We’d love to know!

Stacy Graves is contributing editor of The Mary Kay Foundation℠ blog. While Stacy likes green smoothies and a mostly vegetarian diet, she’s still working on her two teen boys. They love their hot hogs and chicken nuggets. You can connect with her at, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest.