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Eating Processed Meat Increases Risk for Colorectal Cancer – Finds IARC Study

by | Jan 4, 2016 | Blog, Diseases and Conditions

Colorectal CancerColorectal Cancer (CRC) is recognized as the third most commonly diagnosed malignant neoplasm worldwide and the third leading cause of cancer death among Americans (both men and women). As per recent reports, an estimated 135,000 new cases of CRC will be diagnosed and nearly 50,000 deaths due to this disease will occur in the United States in 2015. Generally, colorectal cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum is often a treatable disease that normally goes undetected due to lack of regular screening. In majority of cases, routine screening helps in finding the growth of small polyps or pre-cancerous growths at an early stage and removing them before they become cancerous. Early diagnosis of symptoms helps in effective treatment resulting in high survival rates. Oncology physicians while administering different treatment modalities for CRC must educate the patients about the adverse effects of this disease and suggest different ways for early treatment. Oncologists should have up-to-date knowledge about the latest coding changes for the colon cancer screening services provided. Oncology medical billing and coding can be complex and a high level of knowledge regarding appropriate coding, modifiers and payer-specific medical billing are essential for correct and on-time reimbursement.

According to a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), eating processed meat, including bacon, sausages, cold cuts and hot dogs can potentially increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC).

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of WHO, analyzed more than 800 studies that looked at the possible links between the consumption of processed or red meat and cancer. The body of research spanned several continents, and included different races and diets. Most of the studies focused on associations with colon cancer, in particular.

As part of the study, the IARC classified consumption of processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans” that is as deadly as tobacco, asbestos and diesel fumes. In addition, there was a positive association with stomach cancer. On the other hand, red meat fared slightly better under the analysis and was classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans” that entails the same level of cancer risk as glyphosate, the active ingredient in many pesticides. However, the group also noted that red meat has nutritional value. This powerful association was not only observed for colorectal cancer but also for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

As part of the study, the IARC convened a working group of 22 experts from 10 countries, who carefully reviewed about 800 studies that investigated associations of more than a dozen types of cancer with the consumption of red meat or processed meat in many countries and populations with diverse diets. The key findings of the study include:

  • The consumption of meat varies greatly between countries, from less than 5% to up to 100%. For processed meat, it varies from less than 2% to 65%.
  • The mean intake of red meat by those who consume is about 50 to 100 g per person per day, with high consumption equaling more than 200 g per person per day.
  • An analysis of data from 10 different studies estimated a significant increase in the risk of CRC. For every 50-g portion of processed meat eaten daily, the CRC risk increases by 18% and for 100-g portion of red meat eaten daily, the CRC risk increase by 17%.

Meanwhile, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) supported the findings. As per recommendations from the American Institute for Cancer research (AICR), individuals need to avoid consumption of processed meat and red meat to lower CRC risk. The mechanism of meat processing (treatment with chemicals or smoked/cured to allow longer storage) increases the level of amines and aromatic hydrocarbons in the food, which can cause damage to human DNA, thereby increasing the risk of colon cancer.

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