Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Processed meat tied to ovarian cancer risk

A few years ago, eating a lot of processed meat was tied to cancer in children.


updated 1:56 p.m. ET, Tues., April 20, 2010
Women who eat a lot of processed meats, such as salami and hot dogs, are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new Australian study.

At the same time, those who eat a lot of fish have a lower risk of the deadly tumors, Dr. Penny M. Webb of Gynecological Cancers Group at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, and colleagues found.

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They found that women who ate four or more servings per week of processed meat had an 18 percent higher risk of ovarian cancer than those who ate one or fewer servings per week. Also, women consuming four or more fish meals per week had 24 percent less risk of ovarian cancer than those who ate less than one fish meal per week.

The absolute risk difference, however, was quite small: "In Australia, the risk of developing ovarian cancer before the age of 75 for a woman who eats a lot of processed meat is about 1 percent, compared to about 0.8 percent for those who eat little processed meat," Webb told Reuters Health by email.

Most studies of ovarian cancer risks have focused on lifetime exposure to estrogen, according to Marji McCullough, of the American Cancer Society, meaning women who enter puberty early, and go through menopause late, have a higher risk. "Very few dietary risk factors have been identified for this highly fatal cancer," McCullough told Reuters Health by email.

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She noted that there already are good reasons to limit consumption of red meat and processed meat to lower risk for colon cancer and heart disease. "It would be wise to limit processed meats to the occasional event, rather than to consume them as part of one's usual diet," McCullough said.


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