Dr Manny's Notes

The hidden risk of processed meats

Close-up of fried egg with bacon and vegetables.

Close-up of fried egg with bacon and vegetables.  (Demid & Olga (http://dophoto.net))

A study out of Sweden finds that eating two slices of bacon—or one sausage—a day can increase a person’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

According to researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, a mere 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day can increase the risk of the potentially deadly cancer by 19 percent.

After reading over the study, I found the research to be extremely solid.  In my opinion, the overall analysis conclusively points to the fact that all of these processed, cured and smoked meats, when used very frequently in our diets, can be quite toxic.

At one point in time, it seemed we rarely heard about cancers like pancreatic cancer.  Now, these cases seem to pop up more and more frequently. The question I get a lot from patients now is, “Is pancreatic cancer actually on the rise?”

In the case of pancreatic cancer, at least, the answer appears to be yes.  A 2006 study published in Clinical Cancer Research concluded that the increase was real, and that exposure to carcinogens was one of the main culprits behind the rise.

The main problem with pancreatic cancer is it’s so difficult to diagnose.  First, because doctors don’t have any unique test for pancreatic cancer, so we don’t know when we need to screen for it.  Second, when a patient does actually exhibit symptoms—such as jaundice, abdominal pain, and weight loss—they are typically so nonspecific, it could easily go undetected until the cancer has reached advanced stages.

Because pancreatic cancer is so difficult to detect early, I think it’s important we take a look at our population today and the rates of obesity, and realize that good nutrition is key in preventing cancer, especially when it comes to pancreatic cancer.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.