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WCRF/AICR
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For Immediate Release: July 22, 2009
Contact: Glen Weldon 202-328-7744 x221

AICR Statement: Hot Dogs and Cancer Risk

WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and our landmark 2007 AICR/WCRF expert report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, have been drawn into a controversy over the link between processed meat and cancer risk.

A class-action consumer-fraud lawsuit was filed on July 22 against various manufacturers of hot dogs for failing to warn consumers that consumption of hot dogs increases cancer risk. The lawsuit cites evidence from our expert report showing that processed meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

What You Should Know:

  • Based on the conclusions of our 2007 expert report, AICR recommends limiting consumption of red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) per week, and avoiding processed meat. This is just one of the 10 AICR recommendations for cancer prevention.
  • AICR does not take a position on the need for warning labels on hot dogs.
  • AICR is an independent, research-based organization. We fund research on diet and cancer at laboratories, clinics and cancer centers across the country. We also periodically collect and interpret the available data on diet and cancer and issue recommendations for cancer prevention.
  • AICR is not associated with the Cancer Project, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine or any other advocacy organization.
  • Our 2007 expert report compiled and analyzed over 7000 studies on all aspects of diet, physical activity, body weight and cancer.
  • The AICR/WCRF expert panel weighed the evidence on all potential associations and concluded that the link between diets high in red and processed meat and colorectal cancer is convincing.
  • On the subject of processed meat (hot dogs, cold cuts, ham, etc.) and colon cancer, the collected evidence indicates that every 50 gram serving of processed meat (roughly equivalent to 1 hot dog) eaten per day increases colorectal cancer risk by 21 percent. (Note: this means that people who eat a hot dog every day have a 21 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer than if they never eat hot dogs.)
  • A 21 percent higher risk is significant and cause for concern; that is why our recommendation is to avoid processed meat.
  • But, to put that increased risk in context: A regular smoker has a risk of lung cancer that is between 10 and 20 times that of a nonsmoker. In contrast, a person who eats one hot dog every day has a 21 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer – not even two times the risk of someone who never eats hot dogs.
  • In our literature, AICR does not call on individuals to ban all processed meat from the diet completely. But the evidence does indicate that it makes sense to avoid processed meat when possible.
    • From the AICR brochure, Guidelines for Cancer Prevention:
    •  
    • "So try to think of processed meats as something you save for special occasions – maybe a modest serving of ham at Christmas or a hot dog at a ball game."
  • The AICR/WCRF expert report is a living document. We are continually updating the report’s database with new evidence from emerging studies. An expert panel periodically reviews these new data and determines whether any of AICR’s 10 recommendations need to be changed.
  • We anticipate that the review of all relevant evidence on colorectal cancer that has appeared since the expert report’s 2007 publication will be completed by the end of this year. At that time, the expert panel will determine whether the recommendation on red and processed meet needs to be changed.
  • Representatives of the meat industry have attacked our recommendation, citing their own privately commissioned, unpublished meta-analysis. We have reviewed and responded to these criticisms elsewhere. The expert panel stands by its judgment of the evidence, and AICR stands by the report’s transparent, peer-reviewed, comprehensive methodology.

The take home message: More people need to know about the healthy everyday choices that can lower risk for cancer. About 1/3 of the most common cancers could be avoided simply by eating a healthy diet, moving more and staying lean. We at AICR work every day to help people make healthy choices; we are committed to changing lives to save lives.

For more information, contact, Glen Weldon, AICR Director of Education, 202-328-7744

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association that operates as the umbrella organization for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).


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