For Immediate Release: August 3, 2010
Contact: Glen Weldon 202-328-7744

In The News: Processed Meat Linked To Bladder Cancer

WASHINGTON, DC – You may have seen headlines about new data from a large, ongoing cancer study published this week in the journal Cancer which suggest that chemicals in processed red meat such as ham, bacon, hot dogs and bologna may be linked to bladder cancer. Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have welcomed this new study, which adds to the considerable evidence linking diets high in red and processed meat to greater cancer risk.

“This new finding lends further support to our recommendation to limit consumption of red meat and to specifically avoid processed meat,” said AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham, PhD, RD. AICR materials encourage individuals to eat no more than 18 ounces (cooked) of red meat a week, and to save processed meats like hot dogs and ham for special occasions.

New Study Points to Nitrites and Nitrates

Researchers haven’t yet been able to determine what it is about processed meat in particular that’s responsible for the increases in risk observed in several studies. This new paper suggests that nitrates and nitrites, which are added to processed meats to preserve color and prevent spoilage, may be key.

The new data come from an ongoing National Institutes of Health-AARP study and involved more than 300,000 participants. Researchers found that those study participants who reported eating the most processed meat had about a 30 percent greater risk of bladder cancer than those who ate the least.

What’s more, those whose diets were highest in nitrites and nitrates (from processed meat as well as other sources) were about 33 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer than those whose diets contained the smallest amounts of these compounds.

Bladder cancer is currently the 10th most common cancer in the US, with over 70,000 cases diagnosed each year.

Link to Bladder Cancer Needs Confirmation; Link to Colorectal Cancer Convincing

The evidence that consumption of processed meat is linked to colorectal cancer was judged convincing by the independent expert panel behind the major AICR/WCRF report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective.

This same report, published in 2007, found the evidence linking red and processed meat to bladder cancer too sparse to make a judgment. Although this new study’s findings need to be confirmed, it represents a major contribution to the scientific literature on diet’s role in bladder cancer.

Higginbotham noted that the AICR/WCRF report’s findings are continually updated; data from this and other studies will be added to AICR/WCRF’s database and are scheduled to be reassessed by independent experts in the future.

Until that time, AICR reiterates that for people who are concerned about cancer, there is already good reason to limit consumption of red  meat and avoid processed meat.

  • Tips for making meals that shift the emphasis off of red meat and onto vegetables, whole grains and beans can be found in the AICR Test Kitchen section of the AICR website.
  • More information about the link between meat and cancer can be found in the AICR brochure, Facts About Red and Processed Meat.


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, 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 (; Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (; World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (; and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (

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