The Link Between Processed Meat and Ovarian Cancer

Health experts have long linked processed foods, such as hot dogs, sausages, and most lunchmeats to many forms of cancers, including esophageal, lung, pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, endometrial, and prostate. Now they've added ovarian cancer to the list.

About 21,500 women had ovarian cancer in 2009 and 14,600 died, making it a deadly form of cancer. Ovarian cancer has few side effects and physicians often don't detect it until it's advanced. So, taking steps to prevent ovarian cancer makes good sense.

The World Health Organization attributes about 30 percent of all cancers in western countries to dietary factors. People who avoid meat and eat a primarily plant-based diet are less likely to develop cancer, while those who eat meat and animal products--especially processed foods--have an increase risk of cancer (and higher incidences of coronary heart disease and diabetes).

Processed foods are high in fat and dietary fat causes our body to produce more hormones. This promotes the growth of cancer cells in hormone-sensitive organs, such as the ovaries. Processed foods don't contribute fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other nutrients to our diet, and include potential cancer causing ingredients. Although there is limited research specifically studying the link between diet and ovarian cancer, results do show that dietary fat adversely affects ovarian cancer outcomes.

Fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli), on the other hand, are rich in antioxidants, low in fat, and provide a good dose of fiber, which speeds food through our colon, removing carcinogens and promoting healthy gut bacteria.

If you don't want to give up meat, here are a few tips for making healthier choices.

  • Buy the leanest cuts of beef and pork and extra lean ground beef (at least 90 percent lean)
  • Remove skin from chicken before cooking and trim fat on red meats
  • Chose lean versions of lunchmeat
  • Bake or broil meat; don't fry it
  • Avoid meat that's pink before you cook it-it's full of cancer-causing nitrates

The cancer awareness organization Cancer Project believes processed foods are so dangerous to our health it's launched a campaign against them. Its billboard ads, strategically placed outside ballparks, feature a cigarette box filled with hot dogs. The warning reads: Hot dogs can strike you out...for good.


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