Eating hot dogs daily
raises chance of cancer
Researchers who linked heavy consumption of hot dogs, sausages and other processed meat with the greatest risk of pancreatic cancer said their high-intake group averaged about 10.5 ounces a week.
Dr. Laurence Kolonel of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii discussed details of the study, done with the University of Southern California, but said, "It's important to emphasize this is an early study. It's not definitive, but suggests something that needs to be studied further."
Scientists released general results of the study April 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Los Angeles.
"We have to keep in mind this is not a guidance for the public," said Ute Nothlings, who was lead investigator for the Hawaii Cancer Research Center.
People who want to know what to eat for their health should refer to the national Food Pyramid recommendations and not be guided by one study, she said.
The study examined the relationship of diet to pancreatic cancer among 190,545 men and women of different ethnic groups who were part of an ongoing research project, the Multiethnic Cohort Study, in Hawaii and Los Angeles.
In seven years of follow-up research, the group had 482 cases of pancreatic cancer.
The American Meat Institute disputed the findings, saying in a news release, "The larger body of evidence has shown that processed meats are a healthy part of a balanced diet."
Kolonel, Etiology Program director and professor at the Cancer Research Center, said the high-intake group in the study ate an average of 1 1/2 ounces of processed meat a day.
Three ounces every other day amounted to the same thing, he said, noting this is about the size of a deck of cards.
For red meats, he said, the high-intake group consumed a little more than two ounces a day, or 14 ounces a week. "But again, this is not precise," he stressed.
Dietary guidelines have been telling people for years not to eat red meat more than once or twice a week, Kolonel added: "If they were doing that, they wouldn't be in our high category.
"A big steak could be a whole week's worth in one sitting."
Based on their evidence, the researchers suggested the problem was not high saturated fat in the meat, although it is not good for the heart, Kolonel said.
But the data suggests the association with pancreatic cancer might be related to carcinogenic substances involved in meat preparation rather than fat or cholesterol content, he said.
Consumption of poultry, fish, dairy products and eggs showed no link to pancreatic cancer risk.
But processed poultry products, such as chicken hot dogs or turkey sausage, would pose the same risks as other processed meats, Kolonel said.
The study suggests that nitrites used to preserve the meats cause chemical reactions to occur when food is ingested or cooked at high temperatures, he said.
The findings suggest that red meats, when charcoal broiled, form carcinogens from the fat that falls on coals, he said. If the meat is eaten when well done, "some chemicals form in cooking process that, at least in animals, can cause cancer," Kolonel said.
He said they would like to see more studies before reaching conclusions, "but there are lots of reasons to not eat too many processed meats anyway," including heart disease, he said. "This study is just one more piece of evidence to make the case.
"You can eat anything in moderation," Kolonel added. "It's not that you're not supposed to eat things ever. We emphasize healthful things, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. That doesn't mean you can never have a piece of Spam."